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Ki-Jung Son and Chosun Ilbo Marathon

Held on August 9th, the marathon at the 11th Olympics in Berlin was one of the most exciting races of all time with approximately 1,300 officials and over a million spectators filling the main stadium and lined up along the 42.195Km course.

At the sound of a pistol, 56 runners from 27 countries filed out of the stadium with Ki-Jung Son in 32nd place and Seung-Ryoung Nam in 49th place. But as the runners approached the Bismark Hill, which was 28 kilometers into the course and was considered the decisive point in winning the race, Korea's Son started to overtake Argentina's gold medalist in the 10th Los Angeles Olympic Games, who was trying for a second consecutive win. Son ran on alone through a crowd of one hundred thousand spectators lined up for over 2 kilometers along the course leading to the stadium. He crossed the finish line in an Olympic record time of 2 hours 29 minutes and 19 seconds. Two minutes later Korea's Seung-Ryoung Nam came in third at 2 hours 31 minutes and 42 seconds. This was a great feat which elevated the spirit for Koreans through the marathon.

The birth of the Chosun Ilbo Marathon

Ten years later, with the intention of enhancing the spirit of unity and strength in the Korean people after Liberation, the Chosun Ilbo held a marathon race. This was none other than the 1st Chosun Ilbo Shortened Marathon. The course started at the Chosun Ilbo Head Office on Taepyung-ro. 45 runners listened to Ki-Jung Son explain the course in the Chosun Ilbo garden and started off at exactly 2 o'clock, running past the Military Administration Office, Dongsomoon, and Ui-dong to cross the finish line back at the Chosun Ilbo Building.

The first place winner, with a record of 1 hour 29 minutes and 24 seconds, was Yoon-Bok Suh who at the time was coach of Hanyang Technical College and also a member of the Atlantic Club. Mr. Syngman Rhee and Mr. Gu Kim donated the trophies for the race, reflecting the people's interest in the Chosun Ilbo Marathon.


The following year, the Chosun Ilbo upgraded the Shortened Marathon to the Chosun Ilbo Marathon commemorating Ki-Jung Son's World Victory. The first race was held on August 9th 1947, the anniversary of Ki-Jung Son's victory eleven years before at the Berlin Olympic. The starting time was also the same and the race began at three o'clock on Taepyung-ro in front of the Chosun Ilbo Head Office leading to Oryu-dong for a full marathon course. Approximately 50 runners competed in the pouring rain and Jong-Oh Hong, a Korea University student, came in first at 2 hours 57 minutes and 20 seconds, establishing the Chosun Ilbo marathon as the mother of Korean marathon. From then until now, excluding the period of the K orean War, the Chosun Ilbo Marathon has been a forerunner in record-breaking and the discovering of new talent. In an era when there was practically no entertainment, the radio broadcast of the Chosun Ilbo Marathon was the greatest sports event.

The Stars of the the Chosun Ilbo Marathon

The Chosun Ilbo Marathon has also seen the breaking of numerous records and the birth of a countless number of stars. The first fruit of the Chosun Ilbo Marathon was Yun-Bok Suh's win at the 1947 Boston Marathon. Suh, who was the winner of the 1st Chosun Ilbo Shortened Marathon the following year, which was the first overseas competition for Korean runners , with a new world record of 2 hours 25 minutes and 39 seconds. The victory at the Boston Marathon, the pinnacle of tradition and prestige in the marathon world, once again gave to the Korean people, who were in despair after th Liberation, the same hope and courage that Ki-Jung Son gave them ten years before during the Japanese occupation.

Stars born later at the Chosun Ilbo Marathon went on to shine at the Asian Games, the Boston Marathon, and other inte rnational events. Chang-Hoon Lee and Won-Tack Kim, who won gold medals in the Tokyo Asian Games in 1958 and the Beijing Asian Games in 1990 respectively, were also competitors in the Chsoun Ilbo Marathon. Lee won the 20Km shortened marathon in the 11th marathon in 1957 and became part of the national team, conquering Asia the very next year. Kim, who won th 39th marathon in 1985, won in the 1990 asian Games and initiated a Korean marathon boom.

Today's world-class runners Jae-Ryoung Kim, Wan-Ki Kim, and Bong-Ju Lee are also the runners who grew with the Chosun Ilbo Marathon. Wan-Ki Kim established a new Korean record of 2 hours 11 minutes and 2 seconds at the 45th marahton, hel d at the Chuncheon course in 1991, and created the initiative for record breaking leading to Young-Jo Hwang's Olympic victory. Also, Jae-Ryoung Kim, the winner of the 41st marathon in 1987, came in second at the 1993 Boston Marathon with an excellent record of 2 hours 9 minutes and 30 seconds and was place fourth in the world Championship, announcing far and wide the greatest results in the history of Korean athletics. Bong-Ju Lee, who won the 1993 Honolulu Marathon, won the 1 994 marathon with a new race record of 2 hours 9 minutes and 59 seconds. Other stars include Jae-Hyung Cho, who holds th e record for the most wins(3), and Jae-Sung Yoo, with two consecutive wins, who are training potential marathon runners.

The Chosun Ilbo Marathon did more than just produce stars and records. It has constantly been implanting the marathon spirit in athletes and the Korean people. Korean marathon, which had produced world-class runners such as Ki-Jung Son and Yoon-Bok Suh, had fallen into a deep sleep during the sixties and the seventies. While the world record stood at 2 hours and 10 minutes, the Koran record was lagging behind at 2 hours and 20 to 30 minutes, with coaches and athletes alike losing the spirit of marathon. Despite the fact that an event covering 42.195 kilometers requires a victory based on strong sportsmanship, people were obsessed only with who came in first, resulting in the decline of Korean marathon.

The 36th Chosun Ilbo Marathon of 1982 is remembered as the wake-up call for the sleeping marathon spirit. A race covering 42.195 kilometers from Chang-dong to Uijungbu and back opened a new era of record breaking in Korean marathon.

Korean marathon aimed for the world stage

With this race as a turning point, Korean marathon once again aimed for the world stage. The following year saw a record of 20 minutes followed by 17 minutes in 1985, 15 minutes in 1986, 14 minutes in 1987, and 13 minutes in 1988. In 1991, at the new Chuncheon course, Wan-Ki Kim established a new Korean record of 11 minutes which became the springboard for wins in the Barcelona Olympics and the Hiroshima Asian Games, resulting in a new Korea record of 2 hours 8 minutes and 9 seconds.

The Chosun Ilbo Chuncheon Marathon was born again as [The Chosun Ilbo Chuncheon International Marathon ] on October 28th, 1995. This was because for Korean marathon to reach out into the world and the future. Now that the top runners in the world are here to compete in the Chosun Ilbo Chuncheon International Marathon, we hope to see the breaking of the Korean record and the world record, making this race one that will continue to emphasize sportsmanship and the marathon spirit to all athletes and coaches.