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NC Dinosaurs’ cover-up of game-rigging in Korean pro baseball

NC Dinosaurs’ cover-up of game-rigging in Korean pro baseball

Posted November. 09, 2016 07:21,   

Updated November. 09, 2016 07:30


Between 1969 and 1971, the Japanese pro baseball community experienced a crisis due to a game-rigging scandal called "dark fog." Nineteen players were given heavy punishments including eternal exit from the sport because of the incident that the infamous organized crime ring Yakuza even involved. Nishitetsu and Toei, to which the troubled players belonged at the time, were sold off. As the recognition that game-rigging resulted in players’ eternal exit from the baseball community widely spread, it became virtually impossible even to think about manipulating the results of games. In November last year and March this year, the Yomiuri Giants kicked out all of the four pitchers who played baseball gambles, which is lighter than game-rigging, and the team’s owner and representative both resigned.

The Korean pro baseball, which marks the 35th anniversary this year, had a game-rigging scandal erupting for the first time in 2012, which caused LG Twins players Kim Hyun-joon and Park Sung-hyun to be exited from the sport for good. Four years later, the situation is much more serious. It has been revealed that Lee Tae-yang of the NC Dinosaurs and Moon Woo-ram of the Nexen Heroes were involved in game-rigging in July, and that former pitcher Lee Seong-min of the NC Dinosaurs and Yoo Chang-shik of the Kia Tigers were also recently embroiled in game-rigging. Not a few players committed illegal activities that they should never be doing in return for receiving valuables and entertainment from brokers they formed close relationship, but did not even recognize that their acts constituted a crime.

More shocking than the players’ irregularities is the NC Dinosaurs’ suspected systematic efforts to cover up the crime. The NC team’s leader and its head of operation were aware of Lee’s involvement in game rigging, but covered it up nonetheless. Far worse, police investigation has discovered that they even had Lee Seong-min to be recruited by the new team KT Wiz through a special arrangement, and received 1 billion won (880,000 U.S. dollars) in trade fees in 2014. The fact that a ranking official of a team covered up a player’s apparent wrongdoing and traded the player to other team by taking unfair profits constitutes a highly malicious crime that betrays spectators and fans. Not only the players involved the scandal but also the team itself should be subjected to severe disciplinary actions.

Korean pro baseball is so popular among the public that the sport attracted a total of more than 8 million spectators to ballparks this year. However, the sport will have no future if it has players and coaching staff who have no basic understanding about the importance of fair play, and team leaders who do not even hesitate to cover up sports crimes. Korea should learn lessons from the slump of the Taiwanese pro baseball, whose credibility and popularity have slumped due to frequent game-rigging practices. If the NC Dinosaurs, which even advanced to the Korean Series only to be defeated by the Doosan Bears this year, had won the championship, it would have remained as a truly shameful incident in the history of Korean baseball.

권순활논설위원 shkwon@donga.com