South Korea, Badminton, and the Thomas Cup


Since debuting in 1984, South Korea has appeared in every edition of badminton’s premier team championships for men, with twenty consecutive stints in the biennial tournament since its expansion from four teams to eight. 

Outside of the traditional powerhouses such as China, Indonesia, and Denmark, the Koreans were just outside of the elite teams when it comes to men’s badminton, in contrast to their female counterparts who had just won their second Uber Cup three months ago.

[RELATED: Korea dethrones China in a comeback to win Uber Cup]

And although they have won the mixed-team Sudirman Cup four times, the men’s side has yet to win the Thomas Cup.

With India winning their maiden title in 2022, South Korea had the record for most semifinal appearances without winning it all, with their runner-up finishes in 2008 and 2012 the highest that they’ve reached in the competition’s history.

A detailed look at how they fared 

As said beforehand, South Korea has been consistently performing past the group stages of the Thomas Cup, as they made out of it in ¾ of their total 20 appearances overall since they debuted in 1984. 

Of the fifteen times they have made out of the group stage, they have reached the semifinals on eight occasions, considering the fact that the expansions to the tournament field (from eight teams to twelve, now at sixteen) have been made over the course. 

Of course, South Korea’s highest finish was second, which was done twice (in 2008 and 2012) but fell to China at the final hurdle on both as part of their five-peat. 

Last May in Bangkok, they came close to making their ninth semifinal appearance, but Denmark came from 1-2 down to send them packing in the quarterfinals

[RELATED: Thomas Cup 2022: Denmark secures comeback win in another all-nighter]

Notable players 

With that said, South Korean shuttlers have a part in their country’s consistent performances in this competition. There are no surprises to this, as they have won medals in both the Olympics and the BWF World Championships. 

As it turned out, the men’s doubles are the Koreans’ favorite event, with their pairings winning four World titles and two Olympic golds in the process. Currently, in the BWF ranking, Chol Sol Gyu and Seo Seung Jae were the country’s highest-ranked shuttlers, as they are at eleventh-best pairing with the latter also ranked sixth in mixed doubles (alongside Chae Yu Jung). 

As we talk about the Thomas Cup [and by extension, Men’s badminton], here are the best smashing South Koreans that graced the rubber court in this competition, and beyond. 

Park Joo-Bong – the Hall of Famer was arguably Korea’s best badminton player ever produced. A five-time World Champion and a twice Olympic champion in both the men’s and mixed doubles, Park was the premier doubles specialist. With his national team, Park made a pair of semifinal stints in Thomas Cup (1984, 1992) to go along with a pair of Sudirman Cup wins (1991-93). He now coaches Japan’s national team for the past 18 years.

Ha Tae-Kwon – Another Korean Hall of Famer, who also become a World and Olympic Champion with his partner Kim Dong-moon. Won two Thomas Cup bronze medals for making it to the last four in 1996 and 2000.

Son Wan-ho – He was the first Korean man to become World Number 1 in singles, doing so in 2017, and eventually won bronze as he reached the World Championship semis, losing to Lin Dan. He then played in four Thomas Cups, finishing with a silver in 2012 and a bronze four years later, and also won the Sudirman Cup in 2017.