South Korea abounds with young and rising badminton talent. The competition is fierce within the South Korean badminton scene, so every player is under constant pressure to perform and outperform. To make a mark on the country’s local scene is hard enough, but one women’s doubles pair has made waves in the country and on the world stage. This pair is none other than the up-and-coming duo of Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong!
Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong form one of South Korea’s rising women’s badminton pairs. The two women’s doubles specialists have experienced a lot of success since their debut in 2019, including seven World Tour titles and multiple podium-worthy finishes on the World Tour circuit. Kim and Kong also had the unique honor of representing South Korea at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, winning the bronze medal in women’s doubles. Besides their Olympic accomplishments, the rising South Korean women’s doubles superstars are podium mainstays at the Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Championships. Their stellar women’s doubles debut was one of the most successful of any women’s doubles pair. Their performances and record in 2019 won them the BWF Most Improved Player Award.
Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong are, in my opinion, one of the women’s doubles teams to watch. Why? Find as we dive deep into their careers and accomplishments in my latest installment of Player Profile!
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Kim So Yeong’s Early Life and Badminton Career
Kim So Yeong was born on July 9, 1992. She was born in Daegu, South Korea, where she spent much of her childhood. In her early years, she started badminton under the influence of her teacher Kim Duk-Gu. In her interview with the BWF, she credits her teacher for significantly impacting her badminton career.
When Kim So Yeong turned ten, she played in her first junior tournament. Nine years later, she made her senior debut. She played her first senior tournament at the 2011 Victor Indonesia International Challenge, where she and her then-partner Go Ah Ra finished fourth place.
The young Kim So-Yeong continued to play competitively throughout her debut year. She bagged another bronze finish at the last International Series tournament of the year, the 2011 Turkiye International.
In 2012, she played in several International Series tournaments. She also played in her first All England and Badminton Asia Championship tournament. She also won her first medal at the 2012 Macau Open with Choi Hye In. During this time, she was already a university student at Incheon University.
Her competitiveness and skill in badminton followed her throughout her university days. Despite hitting the books at Incheon University, she balanced her academics and badminton well — so well that she turned her luck around in 2013.
In 2013, Kim So Yeong competed at the Summer Universiade. For the tournament, she played in the women’s and mixed doubles events, pairing with Chang Ye Na and Kim Gi Jung.
Kim So Yeong won both events. If that wasn’t enough for one day, her victories enabled the South Korean team to take home the team gold medal at the end of the tournament.
With two gold medals and the team gold, Kim So Yeong became a triple-crown winner for the first time in her young career.
Kong Hee Yong’s Early Life and Badminton Career
Kong Hee Yong was born four years after Kim So Yeong. On December 11, 1996, Kong Hee Yong was born in Daejeon, South Korea. Despite being born later than her future partner, Kong learned about badminton earlier in life. Like her future partner, the young Kong Hee Yong picked up badminton under the influence of her teacher.
She competed in various junior tournaments in her youth, including the 2012 Korea Junior Open Badminton Championships. At the tournament, she competed in all three events. Her best performance was in the girl’s doubles event where she advanced as far as the semis. She performed just as well in the mixed doubles as she made it as far as the quarterfinals.
She won her first junior medal at the 2014 Asia Youth Badminton Championships. Competing as a girl’s doubles player, Kong Hee Yong paired up with Kim Jung Ho. Advancing to the semis, the duo faced Indonesia’s Muhammad Rian Ardianto and Ulfa Zakia. The young South Korean pair battled through three games to advance to the finals, where China’s Huang Kai Xiang and Chen Qing Chen were awaiting them.
The two teams put on impressive performances. In the end, however, the Chinese team prevailed, meaning Kong Hee Yong and Kim Jung Ho had to settle for silver.
The desire to win gold never left Kong Hee Yong. Hungry for redemption, she took another swing at gold at the 2014 Yonex German Junior. At the tournament, she partnered with Kim Jung-Ho for the mixed doubles event and Kim Hye Jeong for the girl’s doubles event.
She and her partner Kim Jung Ho breezed through the mixed doubles event to reach the finals. In the final match, the two made short work of their compatriots Kim Jaehwan and Kim Hye Jong to win the mixed doubles event.
Despite beating Kim Hye Jong in the mixed doubles finals, Kong Hee Yong paired up with her in the girl’s doubles event. They dominated the girl’s doubles event to reach the finals, where fellow South Koreans Yoon Min Ah and Han Yong Ju awaited.
Like her mixed doubles performance, Kong Hee Yong won the finals, giving her another gold medal in the tournament. In short, Kong Hee Yong didn’t just win gold; she won gold twice in the same event!
Pre-2019 Success With Different Partners
Before pairing up in 2019, Kong Hee Yong and Kim So Yeong experienced success with different partners.
Kim So Yeong: BWF Grand Prix and International Series
Kim So Yeong won many of her first BWF titles in the Grand Prix circuit alongside Chang Ye Na, Chae Yu Jung, and Yoo Chae Ran. Kim won her first Grand Prix title at the 2013 Korea Grand Prix Gold with Jang Ye Na. At the tournament, the pair defeated their compatriots Go Ah Ra and Yoo Chae Ran in straight sets to win the women’s doubles event.
Kim So Yeong also won her next Grand Prix title at the 2016 Indonesia Masters. She and her partner Chae Yu Jung dominated the women’s doubles event, advancing to the finals. There, they made short work of Thailand’s Rawinda Prajongjai and Jongkolphan Kititharakul to win the second game 22-20.
Kim So Yeong won two titles in 2017 — one in the BWF Grand Prix and another at the International Series. She won her first International Series title at the 2017 Osaka International, where she paired up with Yoo Chae Ran for the women’s doubles event. After that, she paired up with Chae Yu Jung again to conquer the 2017 Chinese Taipei Open.
Kong Hee Yong: Silver in the BWF International Series, Grand Prix, and Superseries
Between 2015 and 2018, Kong Hee Yong bagged silver in several high-profile tournaments against the badminton world’s most formidable doubles teams. During this time, she formed partnerships with Chung Eui Seok, Park Kyung Hoon, Kim Ha Na, and — for a time — Kim So Yeong.
Kong Hee Yong snagged her first International Series silver medal at the 2015 Indonesia International. At the tournament, she competed in the mixed doubles event alongside Chung Eui Seok. The duo made it as far as the finals but came up short against Indonesia’s Fran Kurniawan and Komala Dewi.
Kong won another silver medal at the 2017 Osaka International. Once again, she competed in the mixed doubles event but, this time, with Park Kyung Hoon. The duo dominated the mixed doubles event until the finals, where they lost to China’s Chen Qing Chen and Jia Yi Fan.
Later that year, Kong Hee Yong partnered with Kim So Yeong for the first time. The pair played at the 2017 Korea Masters, where they breezed through the women’s doubles event to reach the finals.
In the finals, they faced fellow South Koreans Lee So Hee and Shin Seung Chan and lost in straight sets. However, their advancement to the final was enough to secure them a silver medal.
Following the Korea Masters, Kong Hee Yong competed at the 2017 Japan Open. She played in the women’s doubles event alongside Kim Ha Na. Despite their dominant performances leading up to the final, they came up short against their Japanese opponents Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi. Nevertheless, the advancement gave Kong Hee Yong her fourth career silver medal.
2019 — Partnership, World Tour Success, and Most Improved Player Award
Two years after the 2017 Korea Masters, Kong Hee Yong and Kim So Yeong paired up again, but this time for good. The two shuttlers bagged their first World Tour medal in 2019 at the Indonesia Masters.
At the 2019 Indonesia Masters, they dominated the women’s doubles event to reach the semis. In the semifinals, they defeated the up-and-coming duo of Wakana Nagahara and Mayu Matsumoto in a match that went three games. However, Kim and Kong lost in the finals to another Japanese team, the team of Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi.
Walking away as the tournament’s runners-up, Kong Hee Yong and Kim So Yeong started their 2019 campaign on a high note. The pair went on to compete at the 2019 Spain Masters just a week after the Indonesia Masters.
At the Spain Masters, they advanced to the finals again. Japan’s Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida were awaiting them in the finals. The two teams forced the match into a third game. In the end, Kong Hee Yong and Kim So Yeong prevailed, winning their first World Tour title.
After the Spain Masters, they set their sights on the 2019 Singapore Open. Despite reaching the finals, Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong lost to Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi again. Like their Indonesia Masters encounter, the South Korean women’s doubles shuttlers walked away as tournament runners-up.
Hungry for gold, Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong competed at the 2019 New Zealand Open, where they dominated the women’s doubles event to reach the finals. Once again, they came face-to-face with Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsutomo.
Since the Japanese team won the previous encounters, Matsutomo and Takahashi were the favorites to win, but Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong shocked everyone by defeating the in-form Japanese team — and in straight sets!
After finally beating their Japanese opponents, Kim and Kong bagged their second World Tour title of 2019.
The medal finishes didn’t end there. At the 2019 Japan Open, Kim and Kong faced Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara in the finals. In what can only be described as a “symmetrically dominant performance,” Kim and Kong dominated the game in straight sets, winning both 21-12. The victory got the South Korean shuttlers another World Tour title.
By the end of the year, Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong had one of the highest medal tallies of any team in 2019. With this achievement, the up-and-coming duo won the BWF Most Improved Player Award in 2019.
2021 to 2022: More World Tour Success, Podium Finishes at the World Championships, and Being World Number One
Between 2021 and 2022, Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong won three more world tour titles. The duo also played at the World Championships, landing spots on the podium in both outings.
They bagged their first World Tour title of 2021 at the Toyota Thailand Open. In the tournament’s finals, the South Korean duo defeated their compatriots, Lee So Hee and Shin Seung Chan.
After the Toyota Thailand Open, the two teams faced off again for the World Tour Finals. Unfortunately, Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong lost to their opponents, meaning they had to settle for the runner-up position.
Later in 2021, they played at the BWF World Championships, where they were one of the favorites at the tournament. Unfortunately, they lost again to fellow South Koreans Lee So-Hee and Shin Seung Chan. Despite the loss, their placement in the semifinals secured them the bronze medal at the World Championships.
In 2022, Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong set their sights on a title that had eluded them throughout their careers — the Korea Masters. At the 2022 Korea Masters, they reached the finals to face Baek Ha Na and Lee Yu Rim. Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong defeated their compatriots in straight sets to win their first Korea Masters title.
After winning the Korea Masters, they took another swing at the World Championship title. At the 2022 BWF World Championships, the duo advanced to the finals for the first time. Awaiting them were China’s Chen Qing Chen and Jia Yi Fan.
The South Korean team put up a fight in the first game. However, they came up short in the second game. Despite the loss, they bagged silver at the World Championships.
With numerous medals and titles under their belt, Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong shot up to the top of the World Rankings by October. They reigned atop the Badminton World Rankings for a solid three weeks.
What’s Next for Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong?
Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong haven’t been partners for long. Nevertheless, they’ve created a medal record that foreshadows exciting performances and title victories in the years to come.
What’s next for this up-and-coming South Korean duo? Time will tell. All we can do is stay glued to the games and the World Rankings!
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