[EDITORIAL] The Tigers Are a Threatened Species
Haitai Tigers, the main drawing card of professional baseball in Korea, faces a crisis that might force it to leave its long-time home of Kwangju, South Cholla province. Because the team's parent company, Haitai Confectionery Company, is bankrupt, creditors have decided to sell the team. But all potential buyers reportedly hope to move the Tigers to the capital region.
Haitai Tigers have been based in Cholla provinces since the launching of Korea's professional baseball league in 1982. It has been the symbol of professional sports in the Cholla region. Known by the nickname "Mt. Mudeung Tigers," it is the only team that has attracted enthusiastic fans not only at home games but wherever it played.The brilliant record of the team started with its first championship in 1983. It has won three consecutive league championships since 1987, and two in a row in the 1996-1997 seasons. It has won a total of 9 championships in the Korean league. We wonder if such a record can ever be repeated.
Haitai Tigers is especially meaningful because it has experienced the joys and sorrows with the people of the Cholla region. During the gloomy period after the Kwangju democracy movement in 1980, in particular, the team was an outlet through which the politically and socially disaffected people of the Cholla region vented their anger. It is not an exaggeration that the team is the pride of the Cholla people.
The crisis of the team has been long expected. As the team's owner began to have financial problems a few years ago, it has maintained the franchise by selling star players, including Sun Dong-yuhl, the famous pitcher who is called a national treasure, and others like Lee Jong-beom, Lee Kang-chul, Cho Gye-hyun, and Lim Chang-yong. All people concerned, including Cholla residents, are responsible for ignoring the team's plight, though they were quite aware of the problems.
However, under no circumstance it is not right to allow the team to move the franchise to another city. It is not a matter that entails only business theory and market principles. Since Ssangbangwool Raiders departed for Inchon from North Cholla province last year, we can not allow the Tigers to move to other region. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Korean Baseball Organization, local autonomous bodies, the business community and residents of Cholla region should put their minds together to save the Haitai Tigers.
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