Golf Diplomacy

The Japan Times reports today a simple economic formula: in South Korea there are only 147 golf courses and more golfers than you can swing a club at. In Japan, only a short flight away, there are more than 200 times as many inexpensive yet high quality golf courses. South Koreans find it easier to hop over to Japan for a round of golf or two and a soak in an onsen (hot spa) before heading home.

However, the reception is not nearly as hot as the onsen. First, they article noted that the caddies are not the young women they would prefer, but instead have aged with the golf industry. (Most caddies in Asia are young women.) One golfer procliamed, "it is like golfing with your older sister." They're bossy, and also don't speak Korean.

Very little is being done to cater to these willing spenders, not even providing menus in Korean at the clubhouse. However, the Koreans aren't interested in a cultural experience - they simply want a round on the greens. However, there is a great opportunity lost here. As long as Japanese businesses maintian a tone of superiority towards their soon to be richer neighbors, it is a chance of people diplomacy lost.

By the way, the photo is of a Russian sumo wrestler playing golf in Japan (

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