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Seoul Sisters

Except for Americans, South Koreans comprise the largest single group on the LPGA tour, yet their views are largely unknown. Here's what they think

Ten years ago,believe it or not, there were no fully exempt Koreans on the LPGA tour. Andthen there was one: Se Ri Pak, a lonely 19-year-old with a pushy father and alimited command of English. When Pak, as a rookie, won four tournaments in 1998(including the LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women's Open), hundreds of SouthKorean girls began training for golf careers of their own. Now that first waveof Korean players has landed in America--this year 45 of them hold tourcards--and a typical LPGA leader board is now covered with mellifluousmonosyllables: Kims and Yims, Ahns and Hans, Jangs and Kangs.

Like Pak, whowill soon be inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame at the ripe old age of 29, thenewcomers have had a hard time picking up English and making friends outsidetheir ethnic entourage. It has been equally difficult for American and Europeanfans to sort out the Seoul Sisters. Birdie Kim? She's the gal who holed abunker shot on the 72nd hole to win the 2005 U.S. Women's Open. Mi Hyun Kim?She's the little whisp from Inchon who swings like John Daly. But which Kimprepares for majors by painting Korean-flag designs on her fingernails? Is itYoung Kim, Joo Mi Kim or Na Ri Kim? (Answer: Joo Mi.)

Truth is, theKoreans are diverse in their interests. Gloria Park is a skydiver androller-coaster addict. Jeong Jang knits her own headcovers. Jimin Kang ownsmore than 70 purses and reads the Bible every night. Meena Lee trained to be aconcert pianist.

To learn moreabout the Korean golfers, SI, with an assist from Jee Jung of The Korea Times,surveyed 22 of them. The results suggest that the mythical typical Koreanplayer is a Lexus-driving Buddhist with a yen for Hollywood megahits. It'sclear from their answers, however, that these young women have to cope with thesame familial and cultural challenges that Pak faced. The principal differenceis that the newcomers are not so lonely.

Who decided thatyou'd play golf, you or your parents?

Me 43%

Parents 57%

What would you doif you weren't a golf pro?

Pianist 18%

Student 18%

Chef 12%

Painter 12%

Tennis pro12%

Others receivingvotes:

Housewife, officeworker, skier, taekwondo instructor, veterinarian

Favoritemovie?

Forrest Gump11%

Gladiator 11%

Titanic 11%

Others receivingvotes:

Finding Nemo,Harry Potter, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Mrs. Doubtfire, Notting Hill,Passion of the Christ, Runaway Bride, Saving Private Ryan, Seabiscuit, SisterAct, Spiderman, 2 Fast 2 Furious

Who is your rolemodel?

Parents 24%

Juli Inkster18%

Tiger Woods18%

Se Ri Pak 12%

Annika Sorenstam12%

Others receivingvotes:

Lance Armstrong,Zach Johnson, Abraham Lincoln

Do you have aboyfriend?

Yes 24%

No 76%

Who will selectyour husband, you or your parents?

Me 55%

Parents 10%

Joint decision35%

What do youdrive?

Lexus 26%

Audi 16%

Mercedes 11%

Others receivingvotes:

Cadillac,Chevrolet, Chrysler, Infiniti, Jia, Mini Cooper, Toyota, Volvo

What is yourlevel of education?

Grad school5%

College degree19%

Some college52%

High schooldegree 24%

Did Se Ri Pak's1998 U.S. Open win influence your decision to play golf?

Yes 26%

No 74%

Do you considerMichelle Wie to be an American or a Korean?

American 86%

Korean 14%

Favorite AmericanTV show?

Friends 42%

American Idol17%

Grey's Anatomy17%

Others receivingvotes:

Charmed, Deal orNo Deal, The Raven

Do you preferAmerican or Korean food?

American 15%

Korean 85%

Favoritedish?

Kimchi (seasonedvegetable) casserole) 30%

Kalbi (grilledbeef ribs and rice in lettuce) 30%

Hamburgers10%

Pasta 10%

Others receivingvotes:

Bul-go-gi(barbecued meat), dwen-jang jji-gae (bean casserole)

What is yourreligion?

Buddhist 62%

Christian 29%

Atheist 9%

Do you curse inEnglish or in Korean?

English 28%

Korean 61%

Don't curse11%

If you had beeneligible to vote in the last U.S. presidential election, for whom would youhave voted?

Kerry 50%

Bush 40%

Neither 10%

Does the U.S.media stereotype Korean golfers?

Yes 67%

No 33%

Favorite U.S.city?

Los Angeles29%

Portland 19%

Las Vegas 14%

New York 10%

Orlando 10%

Others receivingvotes:

Atlanta; SanFrancisco; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Williamsburg, Va.

Favorite musicianor group?

Kim Jong Kook17%

Maroon5 17%

Mariah Carey11%

Usher 11%

Others receivingvotes:

Bach, Black EyedPeas, Michelle Branch, Kelly Clarkson, Celine Dion, Gladiator, Ok Joo Hyun(Korean pop star), Kim Min-Mong (Korean pop star), Britney Spears

Getting to KnowKim

Having troublekeeping your winning Kims straight? Here's a scorecard with a little backgroundon each of the Korean players who have been victorious on the LPGA tour

 

Age

LPGA Yrs

Wins

Skinny

Shi Hyun Ahn

22

4

1

Speed demon exceeds 90 mph on roads back home thanks to knowledge of radarlocations; spends two hours daily yakking on cellphone

Hee-Won Han

28

7

6

Husband, Hyuk Sohn, pitched in the Korean major leagues for eight years andretired in 2004 with a 36--31 record

Jin Joo Hong

23

R

1

Named Best Dressed at 2005 Korean LPGA award show; mother, Young-Hee,supported her by running a restaurant in Japan

Jeong Jang

26

8

2

Shot 18 under at St. Andrews; knits own headcovers; video-game addict(fave: EA Sports Tiger Woods golf games)

Jimin Kang

26

4

1

Owns more than 70 purses; reads Bible nightly; father, Joo-Bok, is a blackbelt in taekwondo

Soo-Yun Kang

21

5

1

In homeland has been dubbed "fashion model of the field" for herstylish on-course apparel

Birdie Kim

24

4

1

Loves driving fast and got two speeding tickets last year; now, swingcoach--travel companion won't let her take the wheel

Joo Mi Kim

21

3

1

Her patriotic gesture: At major championships, paints her fingernails withKorean-flag designs

Mi Hyun Kim

30

9

7

Patterned her swing after John Daly's; writes a weekly column for Koreandaily HanKook Ilbo

Meena Lee

24

3

2

From ages five to 12, trained to be a concert pianist; turned to golfbecause she hated playing piano

Seon-Hwa Lee

21

1

1

Youngest Korean pro (age 14, 2000) and youngest winner on Korean LPGA tour(age 15, 2001 McSquare Championship)

Se Ri Pak

28

10

23

Believes in reincarnation and hopes to come back someday as a man so shecan be the No. 1 player of both genders

Gloria Park

27

8

2

Thrill seeker is an avid skydiver and a roller-coaster addict; youth spentin Australia provided nickname: Koala

Grace Park

27

8

6

At age four won a children's acting contest in Seoul; as a teenager livedin Phoenix with a nanny while her parents were in Korea

Sung Ah Yim

22

3

1

Classmate of Joo Mi Kim at Seoul's Se-Hwa Girls' High; father, Yong Won, isa retired Korean Airlines pilot

PHOTO

Photograph by Darren Carroll

SEVENFOR '07

The Korean contingent includes (clockwise from top left) Shi Hyun Ahn, BirdieKim, Jee Young Lee, Kyeong Bae, Sung Ah Yim, Meena Lee and Seon HwaLee.

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MIKE POWELL/GETTY IMAGES (FAMILY)

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KAREN BEARD/GETTY IMAGES (RINGS)

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DAVID BERGMAN (WIE)

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JOHN TURNER/CORBIS (PIANO)

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MARK MAINZ/GETTY IMAGES FOR PCA (JENNIFER ANISTON)

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ENVISION/CORBIS (KIMCHI)

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GETTY IMAGES (BUDDHA)

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CAR CULTURE/CORBIS (LEXUS)

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CHARLIE KRUPA/AP (PAK)

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EVERETT COLLECTION (FORREST GUMP)

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GLENN CAMPBELL/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

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SCOTT HALLERAN/GETTY IMAGES

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HARRY HOW/GETTY IMAGES

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DARREN CARROLL

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STEVE GRAYSON/WIREIMAGE.COM

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HUNTER MARTIN/WIREIMAGE.COM

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DARREN CARROLL

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RONEN ZILBERMAN/AP

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DANIEL MILLER/AP

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AARON HARRIS/CP/AP

TWO PHOTOS

DARREN CARROLL (2)

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NICK LAHAM/GETTY IMAGES

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ROBERT BECK

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STEVE LEVIN/WIREIMAGE.COM

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CARL & ANN PURCELL/CORBIS (POLICEMAN)

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WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY IMAGES (KERRY)

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CRAUG AURNESS/CORBIS (HOLLYWOOD)

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KIMJONGKOOK.COM (KIM JONG KOOK)

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