March 9, 2010 / 6:06 AM / 9 years ago

Korean economy gets its skates on after Olympic medal haul

SEOUL (Reuters) - Kim Yuna’s stunning win at last month’s Winter Games will not only boost the career of the Olympic figure skating champion, it should help add several billion dollars to the South Korean economy.

South Korea's Kim Yu-Na kisses the gold medal she won in the women's figure skating event at a news conference during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, February 26, 2010. REUTERS/Simon Newman/Files

Samsung Economic Research Institute economist Lee Dong-hun estimated Asia’s fourth largest economy would benefit to the tune of 20.1768 trillion won ($17.82 billion) from the record haul of medals by its athletes in Vancouver.

South Korea finished fifth on the medals table, its best position, with six gold, six silver and two bronze medals.

All of the medals were won in skating events, including one from a world record performance by 19-year-old figure skater Kim, dubbed “Queen Yuna” at home.

“The country’s splendid achievement in the 2010 Winter Games will bolster soft power, a prerequisite becoming an advanced country,” Lee wrote in a report.

“After watching Kim Yuna’s performance, Koreans may have experienced a heightened sense of self-confidence that encourages the belief that, by putting together their capabilities, Koreans can achieve anything.”

In a country which has few peers when it comes to producing statistics, he broke down the financial benefits into such areas as greater brand recognition for companies and a boost for exports and domestic demand.

There was also a 3.3 trillion won price tag on indirect effects, including a boost to public morale.

All the more reason, the economist wrote, for South Korea to push hard to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The city of Pyeongchang is bidding for the third successive time after narrowly losing out to Vancouver and Russia’s Sochi for the 2010 and 2014 Games.

Reporting by Jonathan Thatcher; Editing Peter Rutherford; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com

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