A scene from Choi Sang-hee’s novel “Just Curling” shows two teams, each composed of four players, sliding round and flat stones on a sheet of ice towards a target area (house) to score points. Curling requires a great deal of strategic thinking, hence known as “chess on ice.” Its origins date back to medieval Scotland, where it was played on frozen lakes and rivers.
As the Korean women’s curling team, composed of Uiseong Girls’ Middle and High School alumni, beat Canada and Switzerland, which rank first and second place respectively, as well as Britain (world ranking No. 4 and the country where curling was originated) and advanced to the semifinals for the first time in Korean Olympic history, Uiseong has been gaining attention as a curling destination. Uiseong, a small town with a population of 50,000, is known for its garlic, which has been famous since the mid Joseon Dynasty. Uiseong garlic grows on soil enriched by humus has lots of juice but fewer cloves, and is known for its spicy flavor and strong sterilizing power.
Kim Kyung-du, professor at Kyungbuk Science College, vice chairman of the Korean Curling Federation, is the father of coach Kim Min-jeong of the Korean Women’s Curling Team. He saw the sport in Canada in the mid-1990s and proposed to build Korea’s first curling center in his hometown. Though the sport was unfamiliar at that time, the local government paid attention to his advice. The town opened its curling center in 2006, hosted a national championship and taught curling at local secondary schools. In 2007, Kim Yeong-mi and Kim Eun-jeong, who were freshmen at Uiseong Girls’ High School at that time, started curling as an afterschool activity. Kim Kyung-ae, who was a sophomore at Uiseong Girls’ Middle School, joined the team when she happened to drop by the school to run an errand for her sister, Kim Yeong-mi. Kim Sun-young started out when she wrote her name under a list that her friend, Kyung-ae, had wrote on a chalkboard in the classroom: “Who wants to join the curling team?”
The players shout out instructions in the Gyeongsang dialect, which is becoming quite popular these days. The New York Times visited Uiseong on Tuesday and covered the town’s cheering at a local gymnasium, under the title “Garlic Girls Take Over the Olympics, and Their Hometown Is Loving It”.
Su-Jin Cho firstname.lastname@example.org