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Pro, amateur baseball organizations to form cooperative body to address issues

2018/09/12 12:56

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By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Sept. 12 (Yonhap) -- In response to criticism over transparency and other pressing problems in the sport, the nation's professional and amateur baseball organizations have agreed to form a new cooperative body, the head of the pro league said on Wednesday.

Chung Un-chan, commissioner of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), said the KBO and the Korea Baseball Softball Association (KBSA) will establish "KBO-KBSA Council for the Future of Korean Baseball."

   At an apologetic press conference at the KBO headquarters in Seoul, Chung said the decision was reached to address controversy surrounding the national team selection and other problems that emerged from the Asian Games in Indonesia earlier in the summer.

Chung Un-chan, commissioner of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), speaks at a press conference at the KBO headquarters in Seoul on Sept. 12, 2018. (Yonhap) Chung Un-chan, commissioner of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), speaks at a press conference at the KBO headquarters in Seoul on Sept. 12, 2018. (Yonhap)

Despite winning its third straight gold medal, South Korea, a team of 23 KBO stars, was an unpopular champion at home because of questionable national team picks. Fans went up in arms over certain players they felt were only chosen so that they could earn their military service exemptions.

Healthy South Korean men must serve for about two years in the armed forces, but the government grants exemptions from the duty for athletes who win Asian Games gold medals.

"We'll look back on how the Asian Games team was put together, and we'll try our best to field teams that can be competitive and also make our people proud in the future," Chung said. "We humbly accept all the criticism from our fans. As the commissioner of the KBO, I'd like to apologize to everyone who was disappointed with our Asian Games team. We may have accomplished our goal of winning the gold medal, but we failed to live up to people's expectations."

   Chung acknowledged that the national team players and coaches were still "caught up in the old mantra of win-at-all-cost" and failed to see what the people truly valued the most.

"After the Asian Games, we realized the importance of transparent and fair competition on and off the field," Chung added. "I take the responsibility for failing to properly check major issues regarding the national team selection and operation. The KBO will continue to actively engage the public and establish concrete plans for a better future."

   Chung said the new council will have a separate task force to specifically look into the national team system, but he insisted it won't have a direct say on actual selection.

That responsibility will still lie with the national team manager, Sun Dong-yol, the KBO chief said.

"We made Sun the full-time national team manager (in July 2017) so that we'd have consistency and continuity with the program," Chung said. "We'll try to address problems that surfaced during the Asian Games. We recognize the need for objective criteria when picking players."

   The KBO announced last week it will halt the practice of stopping its regular season play during the Asian Games, hinting at inclusion of amateurs for future competitions. Chung said Wednesday he'd like to see some balance of professionals and amateurs at Asian Games, which will level the playing field against traditional rivals Japan and Chinese Taipei.

Japan, despite its rich history in professional baseball, has been sending amateurs to Asian Games for years. Chinese Taipei used to field a team of pros but had more amateurs than pros on this year's team in Indonesia.

Chung Un-chan (R), commissioner of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), bows before the start of a press conference at the KBO headquarters in Seoul on Sept. 12, 2018. (Yonhap) Chung Un-chan (R), commissioner of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), bows before the start of a press conference at the KBO headquarters in Seoul on Sept. 12, 2018. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr

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