First Korean Gymnastics Champion Lives in a ‘Greenhouse’

Jang Woong correcting Yang Hak-seon's medal

Yang Hak-seon, the very first South Korean gymnast to win an Olympic gold medal, became one of the most beloved athletes in Korea through his golden performance. In particular, Korean netizens began calling for him to appear in television commercials when they discovered his humble beginnings: Yang still lives in a single-room greenhouse with his parents. Meanwhile, his performance also seems to have impressed the other Korea, with internet newspaper Daily NK reporting that North Korea’s IOC member Jang Woong [picture left] paid special attention to Yang during the medal ceremony.

From Nate:

Men’s vault Olympic Champion Yang’s humble beginnings stir the hearts of Koreans

Yang Hak-seon (20, Korea National Sport University), the first Korean to win an Olympic gold medal in the men’s vault, is once again making Koreans emotional, as the press revealed his run-down house made from PVC.

Yang won a gold medal with an average score of 16.5333 in men’s vault final at North Greenwich Arena on the August 6 (KST). He demonstrated a perfect balance of the three prime forces necessary in vault, which are running, stamping, and pushing. His excellent performance allowed him to win the first ever South Korean gymnastics gold, as well as the nation’s 11th gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

'Front gate' of Yang Hak-seon's greenhouse

Yang, who set a record in South Korean Gymnastics history, is gathering attention for his humble beginnings, and for his love and devotion for his parents. His father, Yang Gwan-gwon (53) is a cement renderer and his mother, Ki Sook-hyang (43), is a factory worker. South Koreans are impressed that despite living in a house constructed from PVC, they did not lose hope and raised the medallist with positive attitude.

Yang’s PVC home is in Gochang , North Jeolla Province. It is basically a slightly ‘remodelled greenhouse’, with Yang’s neatly organised trophies and medals in one corner lighting up the place.

Yang Hak-seon's medals and trophies

Yang’s medals and trophies displayed in the corner of his home.

Yang Hak-seon's parents, cheering their son

Yang’s parents cheer on their son.

In particular, his father hung pictures on the wall that captured his son’s mistakes, in hope of improving his skills even more.

Yang never shied away from showing his dreams of winning a gold medal and building a decent house for his parents; now he seems to closer to that dream, having won the medal as he had always wanted.

Comments from Nate:


ㅠㅠ Wow I admire him.. And it’s even more impressive that his parents has been able to support his dream, even though they’re so poor. I’m proud of you, Yang! Keep up the good work, aim for three-time winner of Olympics, perhaps! You’re so young, go for it!


Hak-seon, your life is so inspiring. You’re younger than me, but your strength and diligence are straightening me up. If I meet you someday, I’d like to say, ‘Thank you’, and give you a hug.


I checked for South Korea’s medal list this morning, and a gold medal had been added. It was a gymnastics medal. They said ‘Yang Hak-seon was excellent blah blah’ ke ke, and I thought his name was some gymnastic skill. I’m sorry. Your name includes ‘hak’[which sounds the same as ‘crane’ in Korean], so I thought it’s supposed to depict the bird’s move or something. I’ll remember your name from now on. Good job!


I hope he gets plenty of TV commercial proposals. Not just because of his poor background — I genuinely want to see him on TV ㅠㅠ There are a number of ad campaigns that can benefit from contracting with him as a commercial model: ‘Yang’s neat, clean motions. Six-motion drum washing machine’, ‘healthy beverages’, ‘comfortable bed that ensures a firm-landing.’ Mr Yang, you rock! I hope to see you more often. You gave us our very first gymnastics medal!! I’m so proud of you!!


I think he’ll look nice on Korean Airline commercials, with his soft, flying performances. (It’s merely my opinion ke ke) Besides that, I hope he can get a lot of TV advertisement proposals ke ke


Yang Hak-seon belongs to IB Sports. He couldn’t even get basic supports from the company, so he had to send everything he earned as a Taereung athlete (800,000 won) to his parents. I don’t really care about IB giving all attention to Son Yeon-jae , talking about her ‘airport style’ and so on. I just want them to stay away from Yang’s additional income because they didn’t give a shit about his welfare. I don’t want to see another case of unfair distribution of an athlete’s incomes like Kim Yu-na. Congratulations, Yang! I admire your loving heart for your parents!


Stop hiring Son Yeon-jae as a TV commercial model and replace with Yang.


Why do I feel angry, even though Yang just won a gold medal? Let’s compare him with Son Yeon-jae. Son Yeon-jae: She hasn’t won many medals; actually, she barely manages to make to the finals, let alone getting a gold medal, if she gets anything at all. However, the press was fucking busy churning up news about her, making her famous and popular. She must have earned a fortune by appearing on TV commercials. She hasn’t even got an Olympic medal, yet she gets the most attention. She’s been on a lot of Samsung commercials in particular. Yang Hak-seon: He created a new gymnastic move under his name, which is acknowledged by the International Gymnastics Federation as one of the most difficult skills with a highest score. He was one of the strongest contenders for the gold medal, and he won the first South Korean gymnastics gold. He deserves more credit than Son Yeon-jae, yet we all had no idea who he was before the Olympics. If Yang had got a couple of TV commercial contracts like Ms Son, he could have built a nice house for his parents and focused on training in a better environment. What the hell is wrong with those journalists and businesses that have been showering an incompetent athlete like Ms Son with money and fame, even when the Olympics hadn’t even started?Finally, I’m not bitching on Ms Son. I’m just irritated by the fact that Son Yeon-jae is overvalued, shadowing the rest of athletes who are training under difficult circumstances; she hasn’t done anything special to honour the nation yet. Just imagine what would have happened if Yang didn’t get a gold medal. He would’ve remained unknown, even though he was a strong contender; on the other hand, Ms Son would’ve still enjoyed her fame and fortune. What would you feel if you were in his shoes? Hey you people who down-voted my comment, think about that. If you were one of those unfortunate athletes, wouldn’t you feel the same way?


I heard his father is clinically depressed for some reason. I hope his father gets well and will be able to support him with his mother to become an even greater athlete.


Seriously, the company that proposes Mr Yang a commercial contract will earn my full support!!


You can’t imagine what it is like living in a greenhouse. I really hope his big heart and gold medal will bring him a lot of money by appearing a bunch of TV commercials and buy a new house for his parents, preparing for the next Olympics comfortably. I won’t forget his boyish smile after the competition, searching for the national flag!!


Yang is so inspiring for some of us who have been blaming our parents for our own incompetence. I admire him ♥


Ah! I’m pissed off with Ms Son manipulating the press. Somebody earned a gold medal whilst living in a greenhouse. She travels in ‘business class’, sleeps in fancy hotel rooms; she has her private therapist, even though she barely manages to rank top 10 perhaps with help of score manipulation. Seriously, guys, let’s make Mr Yang famous instead of Ms Son.


Ms Son and Mr Yang are both belong to IB Sports. Ms Son is treated like a celebrity whilst Mr Yang’s house is disclosed; is the company trying to manipulate the media?


Why are some of you bitching on Kim Yu-na? Son Yeon-jae is the one who deserves such comments ;;; She hasn’t even won ANY medals, it’s not fair for Kim Yu-na to be compared with Ms Son. Most anti-fans are moronic.


I feel so relieved that he got a gold medal. I’m crying.. ㅠㅠ I watched KBS’ ‘Screening Humanity’ the other day, and five brother who were gymnasts living in countryside were on the show. They said their parents let them do gymnastics because it’s one of the cheapest sports. ㅠㅠ And they’re good at it. Seeing Yang’s house reminded me of the show. ㅠㅠ


Hey, Chief Commercial Officers.. Grab Mr Yang! You’ll get my full attention, it would be better than hiring Ms Son.


‘** Airline, fly the world with Yang.’ Are you looking at this, airliners? Go and send him a TV ad campaign proposal! ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke


Let Yang have all those TV commercials that Kim Yu-na is on.


Omg.. living in a greenhouse in this super-hot weather? ㅠㅠ

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