In the survey of 50 South Korean newspapers and broadcasters, South Korea's fifth-place finish at the medal standings in London, the best position in an away Olympics, topped the list.
Between Dec. 3 and 7, sports editors at major media outlets were asked, via e-mail, to rank their 10 biggest sports news items of the year.
A first place vote was worth 10 points, and a second place was worth nine, and so forth. The London Olympics performance received 34 first-place votes for a total of 410 points.
South Korean athletes earned 13 gold, eight silver and seven bronze medals, finishing behind the U.S., China, Britain and Russia. The country's initial aim was to win at least 10 gold medals for a position among the top 10, but it exceeded the goal thanks to a handful of historic gold medals.
South Korean gymnast Yang Hak-seon performs a routine en route to the gold medal in men's vault at the London Olympics. (Yonhap file photo)
Yang Hak-seon captured the men's vault gold in artistic gymnastics for South Korea's first Olympic gold in the sport. Kim Ji-yeon became the first South Korean champion in women's sabre fencing. Oh Jin-hyek ended the drought in men's individual archery, taking the gold over Takaharu Furukawa of Japan.
Baseball pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in Major League Baseball (MLB) earlier this month, and the move ranked second on the top-10 list with 324 votes. The Dodgers bid about US$25.7 million in posting to win the exclusive negotiating rights to Ryu and then handed him the six-year, $36 million contract to make him the first South Korean to jump directly from the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) to the majors.
Thanks to the heroics of Ryu and other stars, the KBO drew a record 7.15 million fans in 2012, and it was voted the third biggest news topic of the year. It marked the fourth straight season in which the nation's top baseball league broke the single-season attendance record.
Pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin smiles as he is introduced as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. (AP=Yonhap file photo)
Two more Olympic-related news items rounded out the top five.
Midfielder Park Jong-woo of South Korea's bronze medal-winning men's football team at the London Olympics is still waiting to see if he can collect his medal, and the aftermath of his post-match celebration in London came in at fourth place.
After South Korea defeated Japan 2-0 to win its first-ever Olympic football medal, Park lifted a sign that read, in Korean, "Dokdo Is Our Territory," referring to a set of South Korean islets to which Japan has also laid territorial claims. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), deeming Park's action political, barred him from the medal ceremony and is reviewing his case.
FIFA, football's international governing body, recently fined him 3,500 Swiss francs and suspended him for two international matches next year. The IOC will use the decision as a reference.
Also in London, female epee fencer Shin A-ram suffered a heartbreaking, extra-time defeat in the semifinals against Britta Heidemann of Germany, and controversial officiating in that bout ranked No. 5 on the news list.
Fencer Shin A-ram reacts after her semifinal loss in women's epee fencing at the London Olympics. (AP=Yonhap file photo)
An apparent timekeeping error allowed Heidemann to score the winning point in the sudden death extra time, and South Korean appeals fell on deaf ears. The picture of the inconsolable Shin, clad in her white uniform alone on the illuminated piste, became one of the lasting images of the London Olympics.
A year ago, a major match-fixing scandal rocked South Korea's professional football. Earlier this year, professional volleyball and baseball were hit with similar controversies, and the development was voted sixth.
Pitcher Park Chan-ho, the first South Korean to play in MLB, announced his retirement in November. His decision came in at No. 7. Park, 39, walks away with 124 wins in his MLB career, more than any other Asian pitcher in history.
Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yu-na returned to competitive skating after nearly two years of hiatus, and promptly established the best score by any female skater this season to win the NRW Trophy in Germany earlier December. Her comeback was voted the eighth.
South Korean footballers plying their trade overseas had a busy offseason. Park Ji-sung left Manchester United after seven seasons and joined Queen's Park Rangers. Ki Sung-yueng helped Celtic FC win the Scottish Premier League championship and then joined Swansea City in English Premier League. Park Chu-young toiled on the bench with Arsenal in England and signed with Celta Vigo in Spain, where he's been getting more opportunities to play. Their transactions ranked ninth.
Finally, rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae and her popularity rounded out the top 10. Son finished fifth at the London Olympics, the highest-ever Olympic finish by a South Korean performer, and could well have reached the podium had she not dropped her clubs in the final.
The close call, though, further endeared Son to the South Korean public, who embraced the 18-year-old as the nation's most popular girl next door. Since the end of the Olympics, Son has been an omnipresent figure in television talk shows and commercials.