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Dream of S. Korean Women`s Basketball Drifting Away

Posted January. 27, 2003 22:56,   


Hah Eun-joo (20, 202cm), dream of South Korea`s women`s basketball, has reportedly decided to apply for Japanese citizenship.

Consequently, South Korean basketball society was dealt a heavy blow. It originally planned to persuade Hah into returning to Korea, and have her play on the national team in the Athens Olympics scheduled next year, regaining its fame earned in the 1984 L.A. Olympics.

Hah Dong-gee, father of Hah Eun-joo, confirmed yesterday, "My daughter, upon graduation from college next year, has decided to remain in Japan and play for a club team there. If circumstances require, my daughter and I agree to apply for naturalization."

Unlike South Korea, Japan does not allow its club teams to hire foreign players. Thus, to play in the club league in Japan, a foreigner has to get naturalized. The Japanese Immigration and Nationality Act provides, "A person is eligible for naturalization when the person is over the age of 20 and has maintained a legal presence in Japan for 5 or more years."

In 1999 when she was a senior at Sunil Girls` Middle School, Hah went over to Japan, and now is enrolled in college as a freshman. Thus, as of next January, she will satisfy the requirements for naturalization. Thus, early next year, upon graduation from college, she will reportedly apply for naturalization.

The feeling of being betrayed has motivated Hah to stay in Japan. When she got injured during her middle school days, no one in South Korea bothered to take care of her. In a nutshell, Hah was forced to leave for Japan. But, the Japanese society saw the future in her and poured tremendous amount of care in her well-being. Finally, after undergoing a rehab program for 2 years, she got to play basketball again.

Japan has done everything it could to resuscitate Hah. The government has paid for her treatment as well as tuition. In 2001 when she was a senior in Osaka High School, she led her team to victories in all championships. In response, all Japanese rolled up their sleeves to persuade her into becoming a Japanese citizen.

Hah is frequently compared to Kim Young-hee (41, 202cm), who led the South Korean national team in the 1980s. Unlike Kim, Hah boasts of agility and maneuverability. Thus, with more experience, she could stand out in the world stage as a center.

Upon knowing Hah`s plan for naturalization, no wonder the Women`s Korea Basketball League got shocked. With Hah likely to become a Japanese citizen, the South Korean team has to wrap up its dreams: winning another silver medal in 20 years in the Athens Olympics next year, and beating Japan and China in Asia.

Cho Seung-yon, a high-ranking official of the WKBL, said with a sigh, "We have promised various special treatments to Hah. But she would not budge. We have not future with Hah playing in Japan."

Sang-Ho Kim hyangsan@donga.com