Quick moves in volleyball help ex-player at airport job

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Quick moves in volleyball help ex-player at airport job

At Gimhae International Airport’s domestic flight building, you may notice a red-jacketed worker with a distinctive feature: He is 1.9 meters (6 feet, 3 inches) tall ― a rarity in Korea.
Park Sun-chool belongs to Korean Air’s service team at Busan’s Gimhae, guiding travelers along their way. But a few years ago, he was focused on guiding volleyballs over a net as a member of Korea’s Olympic volleyball team.
“My airport work has many similarities to playing volleyball,” Mr. Park says. “In volleyball you must spot the opposing team’s empty space and attack their weaknesses with speed. At the airport you have to find the person in need of aid, and give them help quickly too.”
Mr. Park has been honored by Korean Air as the “King of Kindness” by virtue of the many letters the nation’s flagship airline received complimenting him.
“I took a group of students heading to Jeju island to Gimhae airport,” wrote Jang Woo-hyung in one such letter. “We didn’t have much time; I had to get a few hundred boarding passes for the group. Then agent Park appeared and assisted me. Were it not for him we wouldn’t have made it onto the plane. Mr. Park seemed to have higher spirits than when he was an athlete, and he helped us while wearing a big smile on his face.”
Mr. Park is shy about receiving praise; he says he just did what he was supposed to do.
A native of Namhae, on the south coast, Mr. Park was advised to play volleyball by a fourth-grade teacher who noticed his unusual height. In 1995, he finally donned a uniform with a taegeukgi, or Korean flag, and played for the country for four years. His team won the Universiade and Super League that first year, and a silver medal at the 1998 Olympics.
Mr. Park assisted the national volleyball team after joining Korean Air. Last August, however, he was assigned to Gimhae and could no longer participate on a regular basis.
“Honestly, I was afraid,” he says. “Until then, volleyball was my entire life.” But he persevered. “I was determined to forget my brilliant past and live a new life.”

by Kim Dong-sub
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