[OUTLOOK]Baseball boosts Korean pride

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[OUTLOOK]Baseball boosts Korean pride

The Korean national baseball squad defeated Team USA, arguably the strongest in the world, and humiliated Japan twice in the World Baseball Classic. The entire nation is celebrating the winning streak of Team Korea. Where does the energy that made such achievements possible come from? The source must be the solid conviction to win, the leadership of the general manager who set up strategies, and the teamwork and the spirit of the players. As a result, Team Korea boasted an internationally competitive competency and elevated the image of the Republic of Korea. I hope that such an achievement can be established in Korea’s economy and diplomacy.
About the Korean baseball players, Americans ask, “Who are these guys, anyway?” What are the origins of the power that surprised baseball fans around the world? The coaches and the players tightly united under the common goal to win for the country, and they harmoniously worked together to display their abilities to the maximum. Unlike the “hard power” that oppresses other countries with military strength, such “soft power” makes other countries envy Korea. When the Korean national soccer team made the semifinal round of the 2002 World Cup, I wrote a similar column. This time, the Korean baseball squad displayed its power against the United States, the superpower of the world, and Japan, the second largest economy in the world.
The team had a clear sense of purpose to win, and in order to realize the goal, the coaching staff conjured up an outstanding strategy and displayed excellent leadership. The players banded together following the strategy and leadership and exhibited magnificent team work. What general manager Kim In-shik, pitching coach Sun Dong-yeol and batting coach Kim Jae-bak have shown is a leadership of autonomy. The coaches studied the capacity of the players and trusted them to explore their talents. They also picked the best players and positioned them to maximize their abilities. The coaches did not reprimand or drop players based on one mistake or a temporary slump. They were given a second chance, and the players in return faithfully followed the coaches who trusted them. The general manager in particular personally took command of the players despite his health problems, and his selflessness and strong will have made the victories possible.
The players also did their best and showed their abilities to the full. The pitchers were carefully lined up to block hits of the batters, and the other players throw themselves to catch the ball no matter what. The sluggers Lee Seung-yeop and Choi Hee-seop confidently hit home runs. The team set an example by working together and making no mistakes.
When the event started, the Korean team was treated as if it was playing a supporting role. However, in six games during the first two rounds, Team Korea did not make a single defensive error and produced homers and hits whenever needed. No player spared himself. When the devotion for the team, attachment to victory and ample understanding of roles were combined, the dream came true. The team members have been the same. This time, the teamwork made up for any shortage of talent. As a result, the Korean national team left a strong impression not only on the Americans but to baseball fans around the world.
One thing we should not overlook is that many of the players have experience not just in Korea but on the international stage, in the United States and Japan. They abided by the rules of the game and displayed world-class performances. They greatly elevated the national image and competitiveness of Korea. Our citizens send applause to the players and enjoy a sense of pride. Before we can fully appreciate it, the ability of Koreans operating around the world has grown.
Can we apply a “dream team formula” to government administration? In carrying out the goals for national development, the authorities should prepare appropriate strategies, appoint capable talent and show the leadership of encouraging such talented people to display their abilities in full. The basis is a leadership of trust, autonomy and unity. Each sector of society needs to put its forces together to accomplish the national agenda. If we work together in such a manner to revive the economy and protect national security, other nations will have to give a second look at the Republic of Korea.

* The writer is a visiting professor at the KDI School of Public Policy and Management and a member of the National Academy of Science. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Ahn Byung-joon
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