Ask ten players their definitions of success, and you’ll get ten different answers. Some will say medals at the Olympics. Meanwhile, others will opine that multiple World Championships make a player successful. There may even be some who will look at a player’s transition from player to non-player. Whatever the definition of success is for the majority, nobody will deny that Park Joo Bong is one of the sport’s legends.
Park Joo Bong is one of the most successful badminton players of the 1980s and mid-90s. He captured multiple World Championship titles, an Olympic gold medal, and several World Cups. With 47 International Badminton Federation (IBF) titles, Park Joo Bong dominated the men’s and mixed doubles divisions for over a decade. His final match was at the 1996 Olympic Games, where he took home silver in the mixed doubles event with Ra Kyung-Min. Park Joo Bong retired after the 1996 Olympics and transitioned successfully to coaching. Even after retirement, he continues to make waves in the sport as a coach for numerous national badminton teams. In 2001, he joined many of the sport’s greats by becoming a member of the Badminton Hall of Fame.
Join me as I focus the spotlight on one of the most prolific badminton personalities on and out of the court, Park Joo-Bong!
Park Joo Bong was born on December 5, 1964, in Imsil, Jeollabuk-Do, South Korea. As the youngest child, he had three older brothers and two sisters. As a result, Park’s earliest experiences with badminton began much sooner than most legendary players — at age three.
Park Joo Bong’s father, Park Myung-Soo, was a badminton teacher. Given his father’s occupation, it was only natural that Park Joo Bong had the seeds of thought planted into him at an early age. In an interview with Badminton World Federation (BWF) TV, Park Joo Bong mentioned how his father placed little to no pressure on him to take on badminton. So, in a way, the young Park Joo Bong gravitated towards the racket and shuttlecock.
As Park Joo Bong’s fascination with badminton grew, his father took him to the school where he taught badminton. Eventually, the young Park Joo Bong learned the ropes from his father and everyone on the school team.
When Park Joo Bong turned 16, he saw one of the matches that inspired him to pursue badminton. He watched the Indonesian legend Christian Hadinata for the first time. After seeing Hadinata’s prowess on the court, Park was in awe.
Since that moment, Christian Hadinata became Park Joo Bong’s inspiration. According to Park Joo Bong in his interview, he did his best to emulate some of Hadinata’s moves and apply them on the court.
Park Joo Bong has been with the South Korean National Team since he was 16. Even in his junior career, he displayed an uncanny combination of quick reflexes, tactical awareness, and power. Inspired by the great Christian Hadinata, Park put his spin on some of the Indonesian legend’s moves to devastating effect.
Competing mainly as a singles player, Park Joo Bong performed dominant performances that foreshadowed his talent. Park Joo Bong was a young force to be reckoned with, particularly at the Thomas Cup and several national tournaments in South Korea.
Before becoming a senior badminton player, Park Joo Bong had already amassed 106 victories in boys’ singles matches.
Park Joo Bong had already been a mainstay of the Korean National Badminton Team before he debuted as a senior badminton player in 1982. Eager to amass more experience and accolades on the court, he competed in several major tournaments early in his senior career.
Early in his career, Park Joo Bong competed in the men’s doubles event. Park paired with Lee Eun-Ku. And together, they won bagged bronze at the 1982 Asian Games and gold at the 1982 Denmark Open. The pair also took home a bronze medal at the 1983 World Championships.
Park and Lee parted ways after the 1983 World Championships. After the split, Park Joo Bong formed partnerships with Sung Han-Kook and Kim Moon-Soo.
Park Joo Bong and Sung Han-Kook won a silver medal in their Grand Prix debut at the 1983 Malaysia Open. However, the pair lost by a narrow margin in the finals against Bobby Ertanto and Park’s idol, Christian Hadinata.
After the Malaysia Open, Park Joo Bong played alongside Kim Moon-Soo. The newly formed duo played their first major match at the 1983 Badminton World Cup.
Park and Kim dominated the men’s doubles event, effortlessly reaching the finals. Awaiting them were Indonesia’s Bobby Ertanto and Christian Hadinata. Park and Kim defeated their more experienced opponents in straight sets, winning their first men’s doubles title.
Park and Kim would face off against their Indonesian opponents again after the World Cup. On more than one occasion, Park Joo Bong and his partner bested his boyhood idol’s duo.
Asian Championship Success
Park Joo Bong began his dominance in the Asian Championships in 1983. At the 1983 Asian Championships, Park Joo Bong competed as a singles badminton player. He advanced as far as the semi-finals to face China’s Chen Changjie.
Losing in straight sets, Park had to settle for the bronze medal. However, the semi-final loss did little to extinguish his hopes of Asian Championship gold. Despite performing well as a singles player, Park Joo Bong refocused his efforts on his mixed doubles match.
Park partnered with Kim Yun-Ja for the mixed doubles event. The pair breezed through their opponents, reaching the finals. There, Park and Kim faced Indonesia’s Hafid Yusuf and Ruth Damayanti. Park and Kim defeated their opponents in straight sets to win the 1983 Asian Championships in mixed doubles.
Park Joo Bong returned at the 1985 Asian Championships. He competed in the men’s doubles event with Kim Moon-Soo. The pair made it as far as the finals, facing the Malaysian duo of Jalani Sidek and Razif Sidek.
The match went the distance as both teams snagged one game each. Then, in the third game, Park and Kim showed their opponents no corner, winning 15 to 2. The pair’s victory gave Park Joo Bong his first men’s doubles title at the Asian Championships.
Park Joo Bong went for one last run at the gold medal at the 1991 Asian Championships. He played in the men’s and mixed doubles events, pairing with Kim Moon-Soo and Chung Myung-Hee. He dominated the events with his partners, winning gold medals in both.
Multiple Reigns as World Champion
Park Joo Bong enjoyed multiple reigns as World Champion during his illustrious career. He began his World Championship conquest in 1983 when he won bronze in the men’s doubles event with Lee Eun-Ku.
Park Joo Bong returned at the 1985 Badminton World Championships. Park partnered with Kim Moon-Soo and Yoo Sang-Hee for the men’s and mixed doubles events.
In the men’s doubles event, Park and Kim dominated the event to reach the finals. Awaiting them were Li Yongbo and Tian Bingyi. The two teams fought tooth and nail, snatching a game apiece. The match went to a third game which Park and Kim won decisively. The victory got Park Joo Bong and Kim Moon-Soo their first World Championship title.
Park Joo Bong duplicated his performance in the mixed doubles event. With Yoo Sang-Hee, he bested the Swedish pair of Steffan Karlsson and Maria Bengtsson in the finals. Park won his second gold medal in the tournament by winning the finals.
In 1989, Park Joo Bong competed in the mixed doubles event at the World Championships. At the 1989 World Championships, Park chose a different partner — Chung Myeong Hee. The pair made it to the finals to face Indonesia’s Eddy Hartono and Verawaty Fadjrin. Park and Chung won the finals match in straight sets, capturing the mixed doubles title.
Park Joo Bong solidified his dominance of the World Championships in 1991 when he won titles in the men’s and mixed doubles. He partnered with Kim Moon-Soo for the men’s doubles and Chung Myeong Hee for the finals. Park’s victories in both events made him a five-time World Champion.
Besides being a multiple-time World Champion, few feats can shift the spotlight towards a career better than being in the Olympics. Park Joo Bong wasn’t just a mainstay on the Olympic podium. He was also an Olympic Gold medalist, establishing himself as one of badminton’s best.
Park Joo Bong competed in his first Olympic event in 1988. During this time, badminton was still a demonstration sport. However, despite badminton’s status at the time, Park Joo Bong still treated the crowd to a display of skill, winning the mixed doubles exhibition match against China’s Wang Pengren and Shi Fangjing.
Fortunately, it was after 1988 that the International Olympic Committee finally recognized badminton as an Olympic sport. The badminton event became part of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, where Park Joo Bong competed.
At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Park Joo Bong set his sights on Olympic gold. With Kim Moon-Soo by his side, he dominated the men’s doubles event to reach the finals.
There, awaiting the South Korean pair, were Indonesia’s Rudy Gunawan and Eddy Hartono. Park and Kim’s desire for Olympic Gold was palpable throughout the match, showing the Indonesians no corner.
Park Joo Bong and Kim Moon-Soo defeated their opponents in straight sets and won the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. The victory was exceptional, not just because it was Park Joo Bong’s Olympic victory for South Korea. It was also momentous since he won it in the first year badminton became an Olympic sport.
Park Joo Bong came back at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. This time, he competed in the mixed doubles event alongside Ra Kyung-Min. The pair battled to the finals to face off against their compatriots Kim Dong-Moon and Gil Young-Ah.
In an all-South Korean Olympic final, the two teams fought fiercely, winning one game each. Then, the match went to a third game. Park Joo Bong and Ra Kyung-Min held up their own against their compatriots. However, Kim Dong-Moon and Gil Young-Ah got the better of them, winning the third game and the final match.
Despite the loss, Park Joo Bong and Ra Kyung-Min took silver at the Olympics. After the Olympics, Park Joodelete
Bong retired from competition — but not from badminton, as we’ll see.
After the 1996 Olympics, Park Joo Bong stayed in the sport as a coach. However, his accomplishments and reputation didn’t have to look far for a coaching opportunity. Instead, the opportunity came to him, as he disclosed in his interview with BWF TV.
After his official retirement in 1996, Park Joo-Bong coached badminton at the Korea National Sports University in Seoul. After teaching the sport for just a few years, Park received an offer to coach the English team. Happy at the opportunity to coach at the national level, he jumped at the chance and accepted.
After spending time at the helm of the English team, Park Joo Bong received another call. This time, he received an offer from the Japanese national team.
Once again, he accepted the offer. However, he disclosed in an interview with the Korea Times that it felt unnatural. According to Park, it was initially awkward to coach the Japanese team, given South Korea’s and Japan’s tense history.
Despite this, he fit the role perfectly, guiding Japanese players to multiple Olympic showings and titles.
A Legend On and Off the Court
As a player, Park Joo Bong will forever be the player who turned the world’s eyes to South Korea’s brand of badminton. As a multiple-time World Champion and an Olympic Gold medalist, Park Joo Bong proves South Korea deserves a spot among the world’s best badminton nations.
Even in retirement, he continued to make his mark on the sport as he guided future generations. He truly deserves his Hall of Fame spot for his achievements on and off the court!
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