The True Story Of How 5 Girls From A Small Korean Town Became The 2018 Olympics’ Biggest Sensation

The most popular girls in South Korea right now aren’t Seolhyun, Suzy, or Song Hye Kyo, but five girls from Uiseong who have no idea how popular they are.

Before the Olympics started, no one would have considered South Korea to be a women’s curling powerhouse. Now they face Sweden for a chance at at gold.

But who are these five women? And how did they get so good at this fairly obscure sport? And how did they get so popular?


These five have been called the “Garlic Girls” because the majority grew up in the small rural town of Uiseong (population 14,000), which has been best known for producing garlic. But now Uiseong might be better known for producing some of the best curlers in the world.

The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics Women’s Curling Team from South Korea: Kim Kyeong-ae (‘Steak’), Kim Seon-young (‘Sunny’), Kim Eun-jung (‘Annie’), Kim Young-mi (‘Pancake’).


The story really begins in the 1990s, when Uiseong native and physical education teacher Kim Kyung-doo began making pilgrimages to Canada to learn more about the sport. Over the next decade, he spread the gospel of curling to anybody who would listen, including his daughter Min-Jung, who is now the National Women’s coach.

This included four high school girls who practiced the sport after school, all surnamed Kim: Seon-young, Eun-jung (pictured above), Kyeong-ae, and Young-mi (with only the latter two related to each other).


After over ten years together, and many ups and downs, the foursome picked up a fifth teammate (alternate Kim Cho-hi), and made it to the Olympics. After dominating round robin play and defeating Japan in a nailbiter in the semifinal, they play for a gold medal on Sunday vs. Sweden.

But none of them are aware of their fame: they’ve decided to switch off their phones for the duration of the competition and their coach has kept them away from the media to make sure they can keep their composure.


This means that none of them are aware of how many fans they’ve picked up around the world. It doesn’t hurt that skip (captain) Eun-jun maintains her trademark glasses and poker face no matter what happens, be it celebrating with her teammates…

to eating a banana…

to waving to the cameras…

to checking out the competition.


The fact that they’ve nicknamed each other after their favorite breakfast foods has also attracted a lot of love:


It also doesn’t hurt that ‘Annie’ also has a catchphrase: she calls out the name of her teammate Young-mi each time she delivers the rock:


All of this has led to some great memes, usually celebrating Eun-jung’s expression:


…or catchphrase…

(the name of center penguin Young-mi is being yelled by the other penguins as they encourage her to sweep).


Of course, the imitations are pretty good too:

Good luck on Sunday, Team Kim!

Source: Wall Street Journal, Korea Herald, World Curling Profile and New York Times