A One-Dan Pro may be Stronger than a Nine-Dan Pro
This statement relates to the present boom in Korean professional Go. The competition between the Yeongusaeng aspiring to become pro is so fierce that, by the time they actually turn professional, they are already strong enough to compete with the strongest professionals.
Several professional shodans and 2 dans are playing in the Korean Baduk league with decent results, others are reaching leagues or otherwise final stages of major tournaments. E.g. Kim Seongjae 1 dan reached the league stage of the GS Caltex Cup, Bae Junhee now 2 dan did the same in the 35th Myeongin, Choi Kihoon 1 dan was runner-up in the challenger final of the 51st Kuksu, Han Sanghoon 1 dan was runner-up in the challenger final of the 41st Wangwi and finalist in the current LG-Cup. (December 2007)
Han Sanghoon, maybe the most prominent professional shodan after reaching the LG-Cup final, relates to this question in an interview:
I remember that it was very hard to become a professional. I was almost 18 and it was my last chance to win the qualification among inseis. Of course, I did not think, that I can show good results quickly. I was surprised, that professional tournaments are not much harder than the insei league :) (See here)
Recognizing the problem of a number of very able players not passing the exams and being lost to professional go, Yu Ch'ang-hyeok even proposed to open professional tournaments for the strongest amateurs.
John Fairbairn reported on May 26, 2010, regarding proposals to change the Korean qualification system to address the length of time that strong young players may face in trying to become professionals. Reform In The Air
To relate this to european ranks:
Prior to 2002, when Alexander Dinerstein became a professional, The Deutsche Go Zeitung related that he was currently studying to become pro in Korea in one of the MANY Baduk schools. He was 2000 European Champion (I don't know of 2001 EGC) and an amateur 7 dan. When he went to Korea, he was in 9th grade, of ten, with 1st grade being the strongest, and thus seems to have no chance of joining the few (2-4) new professionals that come out each year.
In January 2011, John Fairbairn posted numbers that only three members of the top 20 Korean professionals were in their teens. http://lifein19x19.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=3114
- Anonymous: There was a team match tournament between 9 dan pros and 1 dan rookies in Korea (Nov 16. 02 ~ Feb 1. 03). By 12 games between 9 dan team and 1 dan team, 9 dan team won the tournament with 7:5. Pretty close, isn't it? And considering that 9 dan team had 4 'gangs' (Cho Hunhyeon, Yi Ch'ang-ho, Yu Ch'ang-huk, Seo Pong-su) and Jiang - Rui Naiwei couple (5 wins out of 7 were made by these players, except Seo Pong-su), it wasn't just an "ordinary" 9 dan team.
- Go World has several articles/notices about 1 dans beating 9 dans as well. (GW 35, GW 66)
- The Nihon Ki-in published records covering 2003-2010, indicating that during that period it had had 420 1p vs. 9p games, and that the 1p had won 28% of them.