Korea's professional baseball league is enjoying another heyday. According to the Korea Baseball Organization, this year the league drew 6.79 million spectators as of Monday. This week, the figure is expected to exceed the previous record of 6.81 million set last year.
The KBO said the total number of spectators this season will likely break the 7 million mark for the first time during Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving, which falls this weekend.
This is a remarkable revival given the declining interest in the sport seen over the last decade. As many baseball fans turned to foreign leagues such as U.S. Major League Baseball, only around 2 million spectators visited local stadiums during the period from 2000 to 2004.
However, their numbers have picked back up in recent years, with the league drawing an average of 13,764 people per game this season. This is almost double the size of crowds that gather at stadiums for professional football matches, which average 7,405 spectators per game.
The resurgent popularity is mainly due to increasing interest among young women, who started flocking to local stadiums after Korea seized the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics by winning all nine of its games. The return of former U.S. major leaguers such as Park Chan-ho, Lee Seung-yeop and Kim Byung-hyun has also led the crowds to pick up.