While Major League Baseball struggles to find a way to resume the season, baseballs are flying and bats are flipping in South Korea. Real, live baseball games are taking place in the country’s professional baseball league, the 10-team Korean Baseball Organization, or KBO. With no MLB games to fill its schedule, ESPN is televising six KBO games each week, Tuesday through Sunday.
The time difference between South Korea and the US (it’s 13 to 16 hours ahead) makes it a bit of a challenge to catch KBO games live. You’ll need to get up early (or stay up late on the West Coast) to see a first pitch — games start at 5:30 a.m. ET (2:30 a.m. PT) during the week and 4 a.m. ET (1 a.m. PT) or 1 a.m. ET (10 p.m. PT) on the weekend — but perhaps you’ll get in the habit of watching the final few innings with your morning coffee. You can also watch rebroadcasts starting at 2 p.m. ET (11 a.m. PT) on weekdays.
Here’s a quick primer to get you up to speed on the KBO so you can pick a favorite team and start your summer with live baseball on ESPN.
When are KBO games on TV?
ESPN is broadcasting six games live per week of the KBO’s 144-game schedule. Games are played in empty stadiums for now, and if a player or coach tests positive for COVID-19, the league will be shut down for at least three weeks.
Most games are shown on ESPN Tuesday through Friday at 5:30 a.m. ET and either 1 a.m. or 4 a.m. ET on weekends. You’ll also find rebroadcasts of games at more reasonable waking hours in the US on ESPN2 throughout the week. In addition to regular season games, ESPN has the rights to broadcast KBO postseason games, including the Korean Series.
Here is ESPN’s schedule for the week (all times ET):
Tuesday, June 16
- 5:30 a.m. on ESPN: Lotte Giants vs. Kiwoom Heroes (live)
- 2 p.m. on ESPN2: Giants vs. Heroes (rebroadcast)
Wednesday, June 17
- 5:30 a.m. on ESPN: LG Twins vs. Hanwha Giants (live)
- 2 p.m. on ESPN2: Twins vs. Giants (rebroadcast)
Thursday, June 18
- 5:30 a.m. on ESPN: KT Wiz vs. SK Wyverns (live)
- 1 p.m. on ESPN2: Wiz vs. Wyverns (rebroadcast)
Friday, June 19
- 5:30 a.m. on ESPN: Doosan Bears vs. LG Twins (live)
- 2 p.m. on ESPN2: Bears vs. Twins (rebroadcast)
Saturday, June 20
- 4 a.m. on ESPN: Doosan Bears vs. LG Twins (live)
Sunday, June 21
- 4 a.m. on ESPN: Doosan Bears vs. LG Twins (live)
You’ll hear familiar ESPN voices announcing the games. Karl Ravech and Eduardo Pérez make the play-by-play along with Jon Sciambi, Jessica Mendoza and Kyle Peterson. ESPN announcers call the games remotely from their own homes.
Wait, what is the KBO?
The KBO is the top professional baseball league in South Korea. It started play in 1982 with six teams and has since expanded to 10 teams. Teams are named not for where they play but for the corporate entity that owns them.
Here are the 10 KBO teams, the city in which each play its home games, and the year the team was founded:
- Doosan Bears (Seoul, 1982)
- Hanwha Eagles (Daejeon, 1986)
- Kia Tigers (Gwangju, 1982)
- Kiwoom Heroes (Seoul, 2008)
- KT Wiz (Suwon, 2015)
- LG Twins (Seoul, 1982)
- Lotte Giants (Busan, 1982)
- NC Dinos (Changwon, 2013)
- Samsung Lions (Daegu, 1982)
- SK Wyverns (Incheon, 2000)
The Doosan Bears and SK Wyverns were the top teams last season, finishing with identical 88-55-1 records. The Bears went on to sweep the Kiwoom Heroes in four games to win the 2019 title.
The Kia Tigers are the New York Yankees of the KBO, winning 11 Korean Series championships while never finishing as the runner-up. Second in league titles are the Samsung Lions with eight, followed by the Bears (six) and SK Wyverns (four).
Two of the league’s original six teams — the LG Twins and Lotte Giants — have won only two championships each and none since 1994. The Hanwha Eagles look like the lovable losers of the KBO, having won only one title since beginning play in 1986. The league’s three newest teams — the Kiwoom Heroes, NC Dinos and KT Wiz — have never won a title.
Here’s what you need to know about each KBO team to pick a favorite for your rooting interests this year. Let Mookie Betts introduce you to some of the stars of the KBO:
Current KBO standings
After five weeks of play in the 2020 season, the NC Dinos have clubbed their way to a 26-9 start with a league-leading 55 home runs. The LG Twins are four games back in second place, and the Doosan Bears are five games back in third place. You can keep an eye on the current KBO standings here.
How does the KBO differ from MLB?
There is no DH debate in the KBO; all teams feature a designated hitter. Also, games can end in ties. After 12 innings, a game is declared a tie and not counted in the regular-season standings. Playoff games can also end in a tie after 15 innings, and the game is then replayed. Five of the 10 teams qualify for the playoffs, which culminate with the best-of-seven Korean Series championship. Lastly, bat flipping is an art in the KBO.
How to watch KBO games without cable
KBO games are shown on ESPN and ESPN2, and you can also watch on ESPN.com or the ESPN app, but you will need to log in with a pay TV account (typically from a cable or satellite provider) that includes ESPN in order to watch live online or with the app. If you don’t have a pay TV subscription, you can watch KBO games with a live-TV streaming service.
All of the live TV streaming services above offer free trials, allow you to cancel anytime and require a solid internet connection. Looking for more information? .
How can I get these services on my TV?
These services are widely available on game consoles and smart TVs, but if you need to add them to an older TV, add-on options like .