Host City: Seoul, South Korea
Venue(s): Olympic Gymnastics Hall, Olympic Park, Seoul; Suwon Gymnastium, Suwon
Date Started: September 20, 1988
Date Finished: October 1, 1988
Format: Round-robin pools advance teams to classification matches.
The top six nations of the 1986 World Championships qualified directly for Seoul 1988. First among them was the defending champion Yugoslavia, followed by Hungary, DDR, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. The Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia disappointed at that tournament, but were able to secure a spot at the B World Championships the next year. The field was completed by host nation South Korea, and continental representatives Algeria (Africa), Japan (Asia) and the USA (Americas).
Despite their poor qualifying, the Soviets safely navigated through the prelims. After holding off Yugoslavia and Sweden, the squad was virtually certain of the final, especially when Iceland held Yugoslavia to an unexpected 19-19 draw. In pool B, the host nation caused an upset. South Korea competed at its first World Championships in 1986, placing an unremarkable 12th. In its first three matches, however, it held off Hungary (1986 Worlds runners-up), East Germany (bronze at the Worlds) and Czechoslovakia in close matches. Helped enormously by the tournament's eventual top scorer Gang Jae-Won, the Koreans defeat at the hands of Spain turned out to be meaningless.
But the Soviet Union was one step too far for the Korean hosts, outclassing them 17-11 in the first half. A rally right after half-time brought them back to 20-19, but that was as close as they would get. Their opponents ran away to win comfortably: 32-25. For the first time since 1972 the Olympic handball champion won all of its matches.