ARTICLE BY Boon Mark Souphanh

The All-Time Greatest Korea-Themed Sneakers

Air Jordan 3 seoul tongues

The sneakerhead obsession with all things Japan never seems to wane, but another regional powerhouse has emerged in the game over the past decade. Their cross-sea neighbours have been making some serious waves, and South Korea is now a well-established epicentre for sneaker style.

In recent years, leading streetwear labels and designers from the ‘Land of the Morning Calm’ have collaborated with the sneakersphere’s biggest players. That said, themed ‘Korea’ colourways were favourites long before the Hallyu Wave swept through.

From region exclusives to rare Air, here are the all-time greatest Korea-themed sneakers.

Nike Air Force 1 Premium ‘South Korea World Cup’Nike Air Force 1 Premium ‘South Korea World Cup’

Sometimes simple is best.

Celebrating South Koreas 2006 World Cup campaign, Nike dropped this special edition Air Force 1 ‘South Korea World Cup’ colourway decked out in the colours of the nations flag.

air force 1 south korean world cup

Kith x Diadora Intrepid ‘Seoul to Rio’Kith x Diadora Intrepid ‘Seoul to Rio’

A colourway commemorating another global sporting event – the 2016 Summer Olympics – the Kith x Diadora Intrepid Seoul to Rio was part of a global collaborative campaign from the Italian footwear label. Debuting at the Seoul 1988 Games, the Intrepid had an impactful presence during the late 1980s, worn by elite runners.

Revived by Kiths founder Ronnie Fieg, this collaborative rendition of the Intrepid was limited to just 500 pairs worldwide.

kith x diadora intrepid seoul to rio

Nike Air Max 97 ‘Neon Seoul’Nike Air Max 97 ‘Neon Seoul’

Graphic designer Gwang Shin was one of the winners of 2018’s Nike On Air contest, putting together his eye-catching ‘Neon Seoul’ take on the Air Max 97. Highlighted with vivid neon contours inspired by the Taegeuk symbol on South Korea’s flag, the sneaker was designed to capture the energy of Seoul’s nightlife.

nike air max 97 neon seoul
via KIKS

adidas UltraBOOST 4.0 ‘Seoul 1988’ adidas UltraBOOST 4.0 ‘Seoul 1988’

The 30th anniversary of the aforementioned Seoul 1988 Games produced various celebratory sneakers, including this patriotic adidas UltraBOOST 4.0. Releasing exclusively in South Korea, the mismatched colourway comes through with all the fan-favourite UB details, such as 1.0 knit pattern and a Continental rubber outsole.

UltraBoost seoul adidas 1988

Nike Air Presto ‘South Korea’Nike Air Presto ‘South Korea’

Despite being extinct on the Korean peninsula, tigers are a storied facet of the country’s folklore, inspiring various national sports teams and, of course, sneakers. Releasing to 2020 to commemorate what would’ve been the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, this Air Presto colourway is one of the wildest Korea-themed sneakers ever released. 

Interestingly, connoisseur and collector Prestology has theorised that the colourway is a potential nod to one of the rarest Air Prestos in history: the ‘Pusan Panthers’ PE designed by Pusan American School students in the early 2000s.

Nike Air Presto 'South Korea'

thisisneverthat x PUMA Trinomic XT2 ‘Seoul Camo’thisisneverthat x PUMA Trinomic XT2 ‘Seoul Camo’

Now well-established in the streetwear scene, Korean label thisisneverthat embarked on one of their first sneaker collaborations back in 2014. Teaming up with PUMA, they created this landscape-inspired ‘Seoul Camo’ Trinomic XT2, which also nods to the countrys storied militaristic culture.

Puma Trinomic XT2  thisisneverthat Seoul Camo
via Sneakersnstuff

Kasina x Nike SB Dunk LowKasina x Nike SB Dunk Low

Kasina first threw open their doors in Busan (South Korea’s second largest city) in 1997, and came through with their most sought-after collaboration to date in 2020. Delivering two takes of the Nike SB Dunk Low, the project paid homage to travel throughout the region, taking aesthetic cues from the Gyeongbu Expressway (the central highway between Busan and Seoul) and Seoul’s vintage buses from the 1980s.

kasina x nike sb dunk lows

Nike Air Max 95 ‘Korea’Nike Air Max 95 ‘Korea’

This Air Max 95 from the Country Pack offers yet another psychedelic take on the tiger-stripe pattern, coming through with a haphazard approach on the usual animalistic aesthetic. Its Korea-inspo isnt apparent at first, but thats what we like about it.

Nike air max 95 korea
via @chewkatchu

Air Jordan 3 ‘Seoul’Air Jordan 3 ‘Seoul’

A double celebration, the Air Jordan 3 Seoul was designed by Tinker Hatfield and Dan Sunwoo as a special project in Nike’s Innovation Kitchen, nodding to the 30-year anniversary of Seoul 1988 and Michael Jordans 1988 Slam Dunk Contest win.

One of the rarest AJ3s in recent memory, the colourway released in limited numbers in South Korea. Daebak!

Air Jordan 3 Seoul
via Stadium Goods
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