Horse Racing Fight Is Over Money

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Horse Racing Fight Is Over Money

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism are in the midst of a tug-of-war over the Korea Racing Association, which takes in about 4 trillion won ($3.3 billion) annually. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry says it is going to take the association back under its wing, while the Ministry of Culture and Tourism scoffs at the attempt.

We believe it is better to keep the association under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The agriculture ministry asserts that the association was originally under its wing and many foreign countries have their racing associations under their agricultural ministries.

But even now 50 percent of the racing association''s profit goes to the Livestock Development Fund and the rural welfare improvement projects, according to the Race Association Act. If the real benefits to farmers won''t increase even if the association is transferred, what need is there for a change? Basically, we agree with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism that horse racing is part of the leisure and tourism industry.

It appears that these ministries are squabbling over the association mostly in hopes of a windfall. The association''s total revenue stood at 3.48 trillion won last year, out of which 158.3 billion won ($131 million) was pure profit. About half of the profit, or 79.1 billion won, was used for the expansion of racing facilities and improvement of facilities to increase profits.

The association has 760 regular job positions. If the ministries remember that the racing association has been the target of criticism in every parliamentary inspection for its undisciplined management and redundant structure, now is not the time to fight over the prize, but to make efforts to introduce a rational management scheme.

At the root of the problem, politics is to blame. In 1992, when the racing association was transferred to the Ministry of Sports and Youth, which was the predecessor of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the minister was Park Chul-un, an influential figure in those days. Traditionally, the presidents of the racing association have been political appointees from a pool of former generals, and rumor has it that its revenue is a good source of political funds.

We urge the ministries to stop fighting and instead pay attention to the effective management of the association or measures to assist the rural population.
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