How Many Innings In Korean Baseball?

Baseball is one of the most popular sports in South Korea. It has a long history and tradition in the country, though its popularity did not take off until the 1980s. The professional baseball league in Korea is known as the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO), which was established in 1982.

Since then, baseball has become ingrained in Korean culture and is often referred to as one of the country’s national pastimes, along with soccer. Fans are extremely passionate and games often sell out. Today, baseball enjoys widespread popularity across South Korea as both a participatory and spectator sport.

History of Baseball in Korea

Baseball was first introduced to Korea in the early 1900s by American missionaries. As the sport gained popularity, amateur leagues began forming, but it wasn’t until 1982 that the first professional league – the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO League) – was established.

The origins of baseball in Korea date back to 1905 when an American missionary named Philip Gillett taught the game to local students in Seoul. As more missionaries arrived, the sport spread to other cities and schools. Amateur teams and leagues started emerging in the 1920s and the game continued growing in popularity over the next few decades.

In 1982, the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) was founded as the nation’s first professional baseball league with six original franchises. The KBO provided a major boost to the development of baseball in Korea and helped transform it into the widely followed spectator sport it is today.

KBO League Overview

Korean Baseball

The KBO (Korea Baseball Organization) League is the highest level of professional baseball in South Korea. It consists of 10 teams located across the country. The teams compete from March/April through October each season 1.

The most successful franchise in KBO history is the Doosan Bears, who have won the Korean Series championship 8 times. Other teams include the Kia Tigers, LG Twins, KT Wiz, and Samsung Lions. Each KBO team has a 28-man active roster, which includes foreign players 2.

The KBO season is structured similar to MLB, with each team playing 144 regular season games. The top 5 teams advance to the postseason, which consists of semi-final and final championship rounds.

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KBO Game Format

Baseball games in the KBO League follow a similar format to MLB games, with a few key differences. Like MLB, KBO games are 9 innings in regulation length (Wikipedia). If the game is tied after 9 innings, the KBO employs an “automatic runner” rule. Under this rule, each team starts their half of the 10th inning (and any subsequent extra innings) with a runner on 2nd base (Wikipedia). This rule is designed to help speed up extra-inning games and provide an advantage to the team at bat.

Other than the automatic runner in extra innings, KBO games follow standard baseball rules. Each team bats 9 innings unless the home team is ahead at the bottom of the 9th. There are 3 outs per inning. The same basic rules around hits, walks, strikeouts, steals, and other gameplay elements apply in KBO games. While drawing much inspiration from MLB, the KBO league has implemented its own unique style of play for Korean fans to enjoy. The 9 inning format with the potential for extra innings helps make KBO baseball exciting and suspenseful.

Key Differences from MLB

Innings In Korean Baseball

The KBO has some key differences from Major League Baseball (MLB) in the United States.

Some of the main differences include:

  • Smaller stadiums and attendance – The largest KBO stadium holds 25,000 fans, compared to over 50,000 for many MLB stadiums. Average KBO attendance is around 8,000-10,000 fans per game.

  • Smaller team budgets – KBO teams have much smaller budgets than MLB teams. The highest team payroll in 2019 was around $10 million, compared to over $200 million for some MLB teams.

  • More bunting and base stealing – KBO teams bunt and steal bases more often than MLB teams. In 2019, the league-wide stolen base percentage was over 73%, compared to around 68% in MLB.

  • Mercy rule to end blowouts – If a team is up by 10 or more runs after the 7th inning, the game is called early. MLB has no mercy rule.

Foreign Player Limit

The KBO has strict limits on the number of foreign players allowed on each team’s roster. Currently, KBO teams can have a maximum of 3 foreign players (source). This limit helps promote the development of local Korean players by ensuring more roster spots for locals. It also helps control team payrolls and spending.

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Most KBO teams use their 3 foreign player roster spots on pitchers. Having a few foreign pitchers in the rotation or bullpen is seen as giving teams an edge. However, foreign position players are still relatively rare in the KBO. The foreign player cap limits the amount of imported talent and forces teams to rely primarily on their Korean players.

Noteworthy Korean MLB Players

Korea has produced several standout players in Major League Baseball (MLB) who have helped raise the profile of baseball in their home country.

Some noteworthy Korean MLB players include:

  • Shin-Soo Choo: Choo was one of the first Korean position players to become an MLB star. He played for the Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds and Texas Rangers from 2005-2020, making the All-Star team in 2018.

  • Hyun-Jin Ryu: Ryu has been one of the top starting pitchers in MLB since debuting with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013. He was the NL Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2013 and has twice finished in the top 5 for Cy Young Award voting. He currently pitches for the Toronto Blue Jays.

  • Chan Ho Park: Park was the first Korean player in MLB history, debuting with the Dodgers in 1994. He pitched for several teams over 17 MLB seasons and was an All-Star in 2001. He paved the way for future Korean MLB players.

These players served as role models and inspirations for young baseball players in Korea, showing that they could succeed at the highest level of the sport. Their MLB success helped fuel the growth of baseball’s popularity in Korea.

Baseball Culture in Korea

Baseball Culture in Korea

Baseball is seen as the national pastime sport in South Korea. Fans are incredibly passionate and engaged during games, bringing an electric atmosphere to the stadiums. The games feature constant singing, chanting, cheerleading, and flag-waving from the crowds. Fans even bring custom-made humorous signs and giant heads of players to taunt the opposing team. The most hardcore fans form organized cheer squads that lead coordinated chants and songs. These creative and boisterous fans are known as “cheer masters” and help energize the environment.

Baseball creates a sense of national pride, with many considering the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) league teams as representing the nation as a whole. Rivalries are intense, especially against the Japanese league. International competitions like the World Baseball Classic tend to bring the country together behind the national team.

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The sport permeates Korean pop culture as well, with star players featuring in advertising and television shows. Baseball continues to grow in popularity across Korea as a treasured part of the nation’s culture and identity.

Baseball’s Popularity and Growth

Baseball is rapidly becoming the most popular sport in South Korea. According to this Reddit discussion, baseball is now the number one sport in Korea, surpassing even soccer in popularity.

A key driver of this growth is increasing participation among Korean youth. With baseball firmly embedded in the Korean culture and identity, more and more children are taking up the sport. Korea’s strong little league and high school baseball programs are fueling this trend.

Infrastructure for baseball is also improving across the country. New stadiums and training facilities are being built, allowing Korea to develop more elite talent. The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) is investing heavily to expand the reach of the game.

Baseball fever is sweeping the nation. With the rise of Korean MLB stars like Shin-Soo Choo and the success of the KBO leagues, the sport’s popularity shows no signs of slowing down. Korea has wholeheartedly embraced baseball as its national pastime.


Baseball is hugely popular in South Korea and has become an integral part of the country’s sports culture. As we’ve discussed, the professional Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) League follows similar rules and format to Major League Baseball in the US, with a few key differences like limits on foreign players.

Most notably, KBO games consist of the standard 9 innings just like MLB. While baseball was first introduced to Korea during the country’s occupation by Japan in the early 20th century, it has since taken on its own unique place in Korean society. Several star Korean players have gone on to have successful MLB careers as well, further demonstrating the high caliber of play in the KBO.

With baseball capturing the passions of fans young and old, its future remains bright in South Korea. From kids’ pickup games to the cheering crowds at Jamsil Baseball Stadium, it’s clear that baseball holds a special spot in the hearts of Koreans and their sporting traditions.

Adrian Cook
Adrian Cook

Hello, I'm Adrian Cook, and I am the author of I have a deep-rooted connection to baseball as I was once an avid player of the sport. Baseball has always held a special place in my heart, and my personal experiences as a player have shaped my understanding and love for the game. Having been on the field, I intimately understand the intricacies, challenges, and joys that come with playing baseball. It is this firsthand experience that allows me to bring a unique perspective to the content I create.

Baseball Basics, Rules, Strategies, and Legends
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