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Ex-Basketball Star Once Raised the Roof; Now She Raises Ceilings

Ex-Basketball Star Once Raised the Roof; Now She Raises Ceilings

Posted March. 24, 2006 02:59,   


Women’s basketball star Jeon Ju-won (34) of Shinhan Bank met former women’s league basketball player Lee Sun-hee (54) yesterday. Lee, who was recently promoted to director of sales for Shinhan Bank’s general client division is an inspiration, not just for former athletes, but for all women.

Lee retired from basketball when she injured her knee while playing for Chohung Bank in 1973, and started a new life as a bank teller. After 40-some years in the banking industry, she was recently promoted to a position responsible for overseeing the business operation of 39 Shinhan Bank branches. “It says something about her character,” said Jeon as she marveled at Lee’s achievement. “It’s hard to imagine an athlete climbing up the corporate ladder as high as her; the nature of competition must have been totally different.”

Lee started playing basketball as a hobby when she was in middle school. Thanks to her height of 171cm, which was considered tall for a girl at the time, Lee played center for the Sookmyung Girls’ High School basketball team. “Student athletes back then were not like the ones nowadays. I played sports during the day and studied at night. I could not do it alone. I had great deal of help from people around me,” said Lee. “The importance of teamwork, sacrificing oneself for a greater good; these are the lessons I learned from basketball and carried on to my corporate career.”

Lee, a mother to three daughters, and Jeon, a mother of a two-year-old girl, had a lot to talk about, including the difficulties that come with raising children while maintaining a career. The two agreed that it would not have been possible without the sacrifice and understating of their families.

My daughter is a Jeon Ju-won fan-

Lee’s eldest daughter is no stranger to Jeon. Jeon knows her as one of the most loyal members of her fan club. The two had more in common than they thought.

Facing the merging of Shinhan and Chohung Bank on April 1, Lee hopes that Chohung’s basketball team does its part in bringing the two banks close together. “The Chohung Bank basketball team, until it was disbanded in 1984, was a top women’s basketball club. I hope its descendents do their best to preserve the team’s tradition,” said Lee. Jeon Ju-won, who has been a big part of Shinhan Bank’s basketball success, promised her predecessor, “You are our inspiration. I’ll do my best to meet your expectations.”

Jong-Seok Kim kjs0123@donga.com