The 27-year-old Hwang, who has recently shed off 10 kilograms, fired six birdies to lead by one shot over compatriot Daehyun Kim, who also returned with a bogey-free round at the KRW1,200 million (approximately US$1,067,000) event.

“My tee shots were not good today. I missed a lot of fairways. But my second shots were good and I putted really well today. That is the reason why I could still shoot a six-under-par today,” Hwang said.

Hwang, a three-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour and a two-time champion on the Korean Tour, is thrilled to get off to a strong start as he chases for a first victory on the Asian Tour and a coveted spot at the Open where he made his major debut in 2011.

Kevin Na shot an opening 68 to share sixth place at the Korea Open. PHOTOS: Korea Golf Association.

Young Thai Phachara Khongwatmai fired six birdies against two bogies to sit in third place alongside Korea’s Innchoon Hwang and Qualifying School graduate Kyongjun Moon at the event co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Korea Golf Association (KGA).

Korean American Kevin Na, the highest-ranked player in the 144-man field this week, posted a 68 to share sixth place with local hopeful Dongkyu Jang, while defending champion Minchel Choi battled to a 73 to tie in 58th place at the Woo Jeong Hills Country Club.

Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Scott Hend of Queensland signed for a 74 in the event which is part of The Open Qualifying Series. Two spots will be awarded to the leading two players (not otherwise exempt) finishing in the top-eight and ties.