How Korea's Garlic Girls Put Their Nickname To Good Use

The underdog team that thrilled a nation has brought curling into the national spotlight

The Garlic Girls

Remember Korea's Garlic Girls? They were one of the host nation's many success stories at the* PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics.*

Still don't remember? Watch this brilliant 1min clip:

The South Korea women's curling team *became the face of a country... and also of their home county of *Uiseong, which is famous for its juicy, spicy garlic.

Now they're making the most of that famous name and aiming for gold at Beijing 2022.

Garlic Girls helping others

Despite the advantages of a nickname like 'The Garlic Girls' the team didn't exactly fall in love with it immediately.

Recently they have reclaimed the name and used their fame to their advantage: helping others and winning sponsors.

'Team Kim' members have become models for a brand of Uiseong garlic flavored ham, and the official representatives of Uiseong garlic.

The curling legends have also been chosen as ambassadors for missing children's day in Korea. Their faces will support searching missing children and comforting the family who lost their sons and daughters.

Garlic Sales up 40%

The phenomenal success of the girls from Uiseong in the curling event at PyeongChang inspired an entire country. People went out and bought garlic in tribute.

According to the Korean broadcaster KTV news, the sales of garlic processed food increased up to 40% as a result.

“After the silver medal, there's a lot more demand for garlic, so the factories are working at full capacity” - Farm manager Lee Jong Eun told Ktv. 

The curling team didn't really have anything to do with garlic at this point, but earned the nickname "Garlic Girls" regardless.

Don't call them Garlic Girls

Reportedly not too pleased with the new moniker, the coach called for a change.

"They don't have many things to do with garlic," said curling coach Kim Minjeong in an interview with Korea's Yonhap News. "Since they are young athletes, hopefully a nicer nickname is given to them".

The Korean public was asked for suggestions for a new and improved nickname, with South Korean broadcast MBC sharing the request on Instagram.

@mbcolympics 👈🏻여기서 참여가능 합니다❣️

A post shared by MBC (@withmbc) on

Introducing... the Curlvengers

The nickname that was eventually chosen was "Curlvengers"... but it never really stuck and over time the team has come to make "The Garlic Girls" their own.

But it's not just garlic that has benefited. The biggest winner may be the sport of curling in Korea.

According to Korea Gallup research, curling was the most popular sport to watch in the host nation. Up to (70%) of the public thought that curling was the most interesting event at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Huge numbers compared to speed skating (29%) and skeleton (23%), two sports where Korea took gold.

When the team upset Canada, they suddenly caught the country's attention.

Rewatch that entire match here:

*The new reality *

Participation in curling has also increased since the end of the Games, possibly generating a new dynasty of stars.

Now Team Kim has its sights firmly set on another crack at an Olympic gold medal.

"We want to show better play in Beijing Olympics," said Kim Young-mi in an interview with Korean broadcaster SBS.

Before that, the team are expected to compete in PyeongChang once more, as the Gangneung Curling Centre hosts the 2018 Pacific-Asia Championships in November.

Fame and a busy schedule are the new reality for The Garlic Girls but the origin of their success in the sport goes back a long way.

The long road to Beijing 2022

The story goes back to 1988, before any of the Garlic Girls were even born.

After watching curling played as a demonstration sport at the Calgary '88 Winter Olympics, Kim Gyung-du, a former vice president of the Korea Curling Federation, thought that Koreans might have a chance of success in the sport.

At a time where there were no curlers or curling rinks on the Korean peninsula, he suggested the idea of creating a curling center in Uiseong county. The population in that area has been decreasing as the young generation heads to the capital Seoul to find jobs other than agriculture.

It was a tough task to persuade locals that curling would benefit the county and eventually the country. After a year of struggle, the curling center finally opened in 2006.

At the nearby women's high school Kim Eun-jung was the first of the Olympic silver medallists to become interested in the sport, after seeing the new curling center.

When the 16-year old asked her school teacher if she could do curling, her teacher told her to bring a friend if she wants to play.

Kim Eun-jung spotted Kim Young-mi in a classroom full of students and asked "Do you want to play curling?" "Ok," said Kim Young-mi nonchalantly.

Later, Kim Young-mi’s sister Kim Kyeong-ae visited the curling center and decided to join the club with her friend Kim Seon-young.

A Korean curling dynasty had begun.

A fifth team member, Kim Cho-hi was added.

Led by skip Kim Eun-jung, 'Team Kim' weren't expected to win a medal at the Winter Olympics.

The underdog status of the silver-medal winning quintet helped capture the public imagination.

The photogenic steely look of the team members didn't hurt either.

And of course there was the nickname. The one that has brought them national and international attention.

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