For the past several years, there has been a steady influx of Korean players entering the Asian Poker Tour festivals that on December 2015, five avid Korean poker players decided it was time to consider banding together to form a group. Brainstorming on how to bring the idea to fruition, they were assisted by two well-known figureheads from the APT Japan team, Tetsuya Tsuchikawa and Yoichi Fujiya, and shortly thereafter, the APT Korean group was born, which was then changed, now known as Team Korea.
Team Korea is headed by the five original founders Choong Kon Kim aka Joe, Lim Yo Hwan aka Boxer, SJ Kim, Kimura Jong Yeol Lee, and Sim Jae Kyung aka Simba as the initial Chairman of the team. Since then, there have been minor changes with Simba off to the U.S. last month. His post was taken over by Jae Chul Chang, one of the most recognizable Korean faces in the Asian circuit. Recently, Jae Wook Shin was also added in as one of the figureheads.
At its start, Team Korea began with a respectable 15 players but after just six short months of spreading the word, they have grown tremendously to over 100 players. Currently, only thirty of them are highly active in the Asian poker scene and are seen at many of the festivals, most of the time, capturing trophies. The rapid growth of the team could be attributed to the open door policy, meaning, anyone can join. The players range in ages from their early twenties to well over their fifties. Another perk for some is being able to travel with a group instead of going stag.
According to Kim, one of the founders,
“Everyone is welcome to join Team Korea and it is free. Although majority of our members are from Korea, we do have players who are Korean by descent even if they don’t carry Korean passports; we also have a player who is half-Korean/half-German and another who is half-Korean/half-English.”
With a constant flow of Korean poker players entering the Asian circuit, the founders felt that if they banded together they could possibly strike good promotional deals with poker organizations such as the APT and possibly even attract sponsors to provide additional benefits and incentives to the players. This certainly was the case as they were quickly supported by Fulpot, a Korean online poker site. Just recently, their contract with Fulpot reached the end of its term, and due to their differences in exclusivity, Team Korea opted not to pursue a new contract.
In their quest to seek out new sponsors complementary to their direction, this past week proved to be fruitful as they have just signed on with a well-known poker promoter, Mike Kim, who opened up his own poker hub called Mike’s Room at the Midas Hotel in late-April.
Kim shared his thoughts on sponsoring Team Korea,
“From the very first day we came to the Philippines, I brought in a bunch of Korean poker players and it opened up their eyes because in Korea, poker is illegal. Coming here and being able to play legally was the best experience for them. Since then, Koreans have dominated the poker scene here. I’ve always wanted them to get involved and that’s why we are sponsoring them.”
With their constant growth in numbers, and with poker experiencing a boom in Asia, expect to see more and more Team Korea players coming out in droves at poker festivals all over the region. There will most likely be one or two sitting beside you at the poker table.