As the KBO League's 2018 season starts with an opening game between the Samsung Lions and the Doosan Bears, baseball fans fill the Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on March 24.

The 2018 season of the Korea Baseball Organization League (KBO) started with opening games at five stadiums across the country on March 24. Between now and Sept. 10, teams will play 720 games in Jamsil, Munhak, Gwangju, Gocheok and Masan.

The KBO League was founded in 1982, and it has since developed so much that baseball is now the most representative sport in Korea. Over the past two years, more than 8 million spectators filled stadium seats each season. This year, professional baseball has proven its rising popularity will all tickets already sold out at four stadiums, except for the Gocheok Sky Dome.

On March 24, an hour ahead of the first pitch between the Lions and the Bears, the entrance at the Jamsil Baseball Stadium was crowded with eager baseball fans. Whole slews of people -- regardless of nationality or age or team allegiance -- waited in line with their foods and snacks, balloons, placards and other cheering tools.


Elena Augustine (left, front row) and her husband, John Kappler, are in Team Doosan uniforms and cheer for the Bears with their co-workers, during the opening game between Samsung and Doosan at the Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on March 24.

Elena Augustine, from the U.S., was visiting the stadium with her husband and co-workers. She said, "Compared to the U.S., baseball games in Korea are very dynamic, especially because of the enthusiastic reactions from the spectators.” Her husband, John Kappler, also said in a cheerful mood that, "In the U.S., baseball stadiums sometimes turn on music for cheering, but singing and dancing along, and cheering passionately like this, can rarely be seen.”

Besides the enthusiastic cheering, food is another attraction that can’t be missed at Korean baseball stadiums. All sorts of foods are available, starting from the most popular fried chicken and beer through to samgyeopsal roasted pork belly and tteokbokki rice cake in a red pepper sauce. Just relax and order the food on your phone, and the food will be brought to your seat.

One of the changes for the KBO 2018 season is that the crowds can now see the video reviews, which were previously only available to the umpires and coaches. By watching the video review on the large-screen display, the fans can more clearly understand the umpire's decision. So far, Korea is the only baseball league in the world where the fans can see the video review process.

Another new system is called the "Intentional Walk" or "Intentional Baseon Balls" (IBB) system. If there's a signal from the defending coach, the batter immediately goes to first base without even swinging, so that the game can move faster.

Major League Baseball in North America has already applied this system since 2017, and Nippon Professional Baseball has decided to apply it starting this season.

By adopting these new rules, fairness and the rapidity of the game are expected to be improved. For the first time in three consecutive years, the KBO League aims for over 8 million spectators again this season.