Yongha Ko (고영하, Kouyoungha) is professional Go player who is chosen to represent South Korea in the Hokuto Cup. His mischievous attitude leads to a lot of tension between Team Japan and Team Korea surrounding the tournament.
Although he is only sixteen years old, Yeong-ha is quite tall and his features are refined. He has long, light brown hair, which he wears loosely. In informal settings, he is seen wearing long-sleeve shirts and button-up shirts with a T-shirt underneath. In formal settings, he is seen wearing a white suit with a dark tie. As a running joke, Aikawa, a young woman who works for the company that sponsors the Hokuto Cup and who is not interested in Go, cheers for certain players during their matches because she finds them cute. She wants to cheer for Yongha during his match.
Yongha is slightly childish, amusing himself with other's confusion or rage, and provoking others unnecessarily. Despite these traits, however, he presents himself very calmly, and is always well-composed. He is friends with Suyong Hong, a prodigal young Go player. He understands people's emotions well, this perhaps being because of or the cause of his interest in messing with people. He is proud and self-confident, though can also be very courteous.
Hokuto Cup Arc
In Korea, Yongha is seen as the "Big Hope" of the Go world, and is considered by some to be the best of the young (under-18) players. In Korea, he plays a game against Koyo Toya after the man's retirement. It is presumed that Yongha loses, although Touya compares the young man's strength to that of his son, Akira Toya.
After being accepted as a member of Team Korea, which will represent his home country in the Hokuto Cup, Yongha is interviewed by a Japanese reporter. Because of language barriers, an interpreter is needed, however, because of the reporter's early arrival, no formal interpreter is available. A janitor volunteers to interpret for the interview, however his skills in Japanese are proven to be rather shoddy. Due to the janitor's trouble in interpreting, it is believed that Yongha has insulted Shuusaku Hon'inbou and Japan's Go-playing, angering the reporter and many people back in Japan, especially Hikaru Shindou, who vows to crush Yongha and teach him a lesson.
At the Hokuto Cup in Japan, Su-yeong, another member of Team Korea and who is able to speak both Korean and Japanese, confronts Hikaru about his bitterness towards Yongha. Hikaru tells Su-yeong of the interview, and Su-yeong, thinking there must have been some sort of misinterpretation, asks Yongha what really happened. Yongha reveals that he said unless the Japanese understand and learn from Shuusaku Honinbou, there is no point to study him, and that if this is the case, then the future of Japan's Go looks bleak. Eager to set the record straight, Su-yeong wants to tell Hikaru what Yongha had meant, but Yongha, finding Hikaru's attitude towards him to be amusing, forbids it. To add to the tension between Team Japan and Team Korea, during a speech before the tournament begins, Yongha reaffirms the misinterpretation from the interview, claiming it to be true; this time a formal interpreter is there and reluctantly repeats the young man's words.
Easily winning his game against Team China, Yongha hopes to play Hikaru in his game against Team Japan, but knows that due to board arrangements his opponent will be Touya Akira, the boy to whom he was compared, and views this match with eagerness as well. However, because of Hikaru's exceptional playing against Team China, and his persistence to be made first board, Hikaru ends up playing Yongha in the Japan-Korea match. Both players slightly overconfident, the match is intense and grabs much attention. In the end, Yongha wins by half a moku. Despite the insistence from others that Hikaru played an impressive game, Yongha refuses to acknowledge that their game was very close.
After their game, Yongha asks (through Su-yeong) why Hikaru plays Go. Hikaru says that he plays to link the far past to the distant future, to which Yongha replies in Korean, "Perhaps that's why we're all here." His comment grabs the attention of Akira (who has been studying Korean) and Su-yeong, but Yongha again commands that Su-yeong not translate. He shows that he is perhaps not as shallow or as proud as he presents himself to be.