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Political Appointees Controlling Sports

Posted December. 27, 2005 03:02,   


The 69-year-old former National Assembly Vice Speaker Shin Sang-woo (photo) has become de facto appointee for the post of Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) commissioner.

If his appointment goes through, Korean professional baseball will have returned to the period where the commissioner is appointed by the government.

After holding a board of directors meeting on December 26 at Baseball Hall in Gangnam-gu, Seoul, the KBO decided to interview Shin on December 27, hold another meeting on January 3, and select the next commissioner.

General Secretary Lee Sang-guk said, “According to the stipulation that the owners of the teams can nominate a candidate for commissioner, we asked the owners of the eight teams to do so. Not a single team nominated anyone, however.”

He added, “Although there were some differences in opinion early in the meeting, it was agreed upon that the administrative vacancy left by the current commissioner should be filled quickly. Hence it was agreed that we should meet with Shin, who has been mentioned as a candidate, and hear his opinion.”

Lee, however, did not say which team nominated Shin as a candidate. Nevertheless, it is being reported that a team opposing the appointment of Shin had to accept it because it did not offer an alternative.

On this, Shin said, “The key issue is whether or not the baseball community will oppose the nomination. I will first meet with KBO people and listen to them.”

However, despite criticism from fans and civic groups that he was “parachuted in from above” for the post after it was leaked that Shin had been nominated, he seems likely to take the job as commissioner.

If Shin decides to take the job at the December 27 meeting with the general secretary, only formalities will remain. He only needs the approval of three-fourths of the board of directors at the January 3 meeting, and three-fourths of the approval of the team owners. Then he will receive the approval of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which supervises the KBO, and will be inaugurated as commissioner.

Shin graduated from Busan Commercial High School and Korea University and became a politician and seven-time National Assembly member. He doesn’t have many ties to baseball, but rumors spread that he would become the next commissioner among his high school schoolmates, many who are in the baseball field.

Shin’s nomination can be seen as a loss of determination to hire its own commissioner by professional baseball’s board of directors. The board vowed to do so seven years ago when appointing former commissioner Park Yong-oh, but accepted the “parachuting candidate” in order to maintain good relations with politicians.

In addition, if Shin, President Roh Moo-hyun’s senior alumnus of Busan Commercial High School and political comrade, rises to the highest baseball post in the country, the ruling party’s Busan-area political figures will be in control of the majority of Korean sports. Kim Jung-gil and Park Jae-ho, who ran for office in the 17th general election as Uri Party candidates, have been named president of Korean Sports Council and head of the Seoul Olympic Sports Promotion Foundation, respectively.