Korea ranked seventh in the gold medal tally at the 2008 Beijing Olympics after its athletes collected a record 13 titles at the quadrennial event. Now the question on people's lips is whether its Olympians can repeat the feat in London this summer.
Last July, the Korean Olympic Committee said it was targeting a top-10 finish in London with at least as many gold medals won as in Beijing.
The KOC predicted that at least two gold medals will be forthcoming from each of the three sports in which Korea has traditionally been strong -- taekwondo, archery and judo. It also expects to pick up at least one gold in each of the six sports of swimming, shooting, fencing, badminton, gymnastics and wrestling.
"Our goal is to finish in the top 10 with 13 gold medals or more," Park Jong-gil, head of the National Training Center in Taeneung, Seoul, said last December.
However, officials have been moving to dampen people's expectations since the turn of the year for fear of putting too much pressure on athletes.
"If we set the goal too high and fail to achieve it, people may feel a huge sense of disappointment. Our realistic goal is to finish around 10th place with 10 gold medals or more," KOC President Park Yong-sung said at a press conference earlier this month.
But many experts think it will be difficult for Korea to repeat its accomplishments from four years ago in the English capital. First of all, its athletes will have to deal with a much bigger time difference than was the case in Beijing. Secondly, Korea's dominance in taekwondo, archery and weightlifting is weakening as other countries make large strides to catch up.
The online edition of USA Today on Jan. 3 predicted that Korea will finish 11th with 8 gold, 3 silver and 14 bronze medals, based on the Medal Tracker, which was developed by sports stats company Infostrada Sports Group.
The Medal Tracker makes predictions based on the world rankings and recent performances of athletes from each country. The eight gold medal contenders from Korea include Park Tae-hwan in the men's 400-m freestyle swimming event; Lee Yong-dae and Jung Jae-sung in men's doubles badminton; and both the men's and women's team events in archery. The others are judoka Kim Jae-bum (men's 81kg) and Wang Ki-chun (men's 73kg); Jin Jong-oh in the men's 10-m air pistol; and heavyweight taekwondo star Cha Dong-min (men's 80kg).
In contrast to the KOC, USA Today's latest outlook shows considerably more confidence in Team Korea than when the publication made similar forecasts back in September. At that time, it tipped the country to win just 4 gold, as well as 7 silver and 13 bronze medals. Only swimmer Park, shooter Jin, judoka Kim and badminton duo Lee and Jung were named as likely titlists.