Lifelong sports personality takes on new role in baseball

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Lifelong sports personality takes on new role in baseball

The new Secretary General of the Korea Baseball Organization is a former television baseball commentator, high school physical education teacher and baseball player.
On May 8, the organization’s directors appointed Ha Il-sung, 57, as the next secretary general, replacing Lee Sang-kook, who resigned last month. Mr. Ha’s tenure ends in March 2009.
A former baseball player, he becomes the fourth person to head the baseball organization after Lee Yong-il (1981 to 1991) and Park Jong-hwan (1996 to 1998).
“I feel pressure to show that a former baseball player could also become a good administrator, but I wanted this job badly too,” said Mr. Ha said. “I will do my best for baseball’s progress in Korea.”
Baseball fans loved him because of his gift of tongue and down-to-earth approach. His popular comment, “In a baseball game ― I’m not sure,” meaning that everything is unpredictable, is frequently quoted.
Mr. Ha played for Sung Dong High School and Kyung Hee University, but he was not very successful as a baseball player. He worked as physical education teacher at Hwanil High School and later became a baseball commentator at TBC in 1979.
After debuting as a baseball commentator, he became a familiar face among local baseball fans for almost 28 years, due to the popularity of high school baseball and the launching of professional baseball in Korea.
“I submitted my resignation on May 3 to KBS, where I worked for 26 years,” Mr. Ha said. “I talked to the chief executive officer at KBS and he suggested that I think it over. I still have lingering attachment to commentator work, but I had a strong desire to work in the administrative field and decided to let it go.”
People in baseball circles are not surprised by his move. Some say that Mr. Ha has been transformed lately. He used to smoke three packs of cigarettes a day and drink with friends until three or four in the morning. In 2002, however, he collapsed with a myocardial infarction and had to have heart surgery. He quit smoking after that. In 2004, he underwent another surgery to remove a stomach tumor and then stopped drinking.
Recently, Mr. Ha converted to Christianity and is living a completely different life. He is married to Bang In-suk, 50, who used to be his student. they have two daughters and a four-year-old granddaughter.
In his inauguration speech, Mr. Ha said, “I would like to build more baseball grounds so that more people who enjoy playing baseball can play as much as they can. During my tenure, I will help create two more professional baseball teams so that 10 teams can play in the league.”
On the question whether the organization should be subject to auditing to improve transparency, he said, “I need to get a firm hold of the organization’s affairs,” Mr. Ha said. He also avoided giving a direct answer when asked how to balance the needs of teams with those of individual baseball players.

by Lee Tai-il
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