MLB Games in South Korea a Big Success; Popularity of Ohtani, Ha-Seong Kim Create Perfect Storm of Interest

Yoshitaka Nishi / The Yomiuri Shimbun
People are seen at the Gocheok Sky Dome on Monday two days before the MLB season opener between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres in Seoul.

SEOUL — Major League Baseball’s season-opening series in Seoul was a huge success, with tickets for the Los Angeles Dodgers vs the San Diego Padres games on Wednesday and Thursday both selling out thanks to the popularity of Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani. It was the first time official MLB games were held in South Korea.

MLB Vice President of Global Events Jeremiah Yolkut said the turnout in Seoul far exceeded his expectations.

Yoshitaka Nishi / The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Gocheok Sky Dome, the setting of the MLB season opener, is seen on Monday in Seoul.

In South Korea, where there is a thriving baseball fandom, Spotv Now streamed the games live, enabling fans to watch easily via smartphone or tablet. With Korean Ha-Seong Kim, 28, playing for the Padres, more South Koreans are paying attention to MLB. Kim’s appearance along with the popular two-way Ohtani created the perfect circumstances for a series set in Seoul.

South Korea’s Maeil Business Newspaper reported online that the event’s economic impact was estimated to be at 200 billion won (¥22.8 billion).

Yoshitaka Nishi / The Yomiuri Shimbun
Cheerleaders pump up the fans on a special stage behind the bench in Seoul on Monday.