Our duty to trust those who lead us

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Our duty to trust those who lead us

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In 2002, the LG Twins, led by coach Kim Sung-keun, were pitted against Kim Eung-ryong’s Samsung Lions in the Korean Series. The Lions were predicted to win, but the Twins mounted a formidable challenge. In game six, the Lions won the Korean Series for the first time, with two wins and two loses. Lions coach Kim Eung-ryong had previously won the series nine times with the Haitai Tigers, but after the game, he said: “I thought more than once that Kim Sung-keun could be the god of baseball. We almost lost the game.” At the time, people thought that Kim Eung-ryong was being clever for calling his rival a “god of baseball” because they thought he was promoting himself by bragging about having beaten him.

Later, however, Kim Sung-keun proved he truly was a godlike figure after he took over the SK Wyverns in 2007. The team advanced to the Korean Series four years in a row, winning three times. But the god fell back to earth after a dispute with the management over his contract that ended with him being fired on Thursday.

Japan also has a god of baseball. As a player, Tetsuharu Kawakami of the Yomiuri Giants racked up five batting titles and was called the “god of batting.” As the club’s coach he won nine consecutive championships from 1965 to 1973, and was called the “god of baseball.”

Kawakami was not an easy man to deal with. At first, he had trouble with his fellow players, and then with sports reporters. After he became the club’s coach, he often clashed with management because he wanted more support for the team. Fans also criticized him for being too obsessed and taking the fun out of baseball. Nevertheless, the Giants never interfered with his leadership of the team. The club adheres to the principle that a coach is in charge of the game while the management provide assistance and support. This helped make the Giants a legend.

Some have said that the dismissal of Kim Sung-keun and the software crisis at Samsung originate from the same cause: the practice in Korean corporate culture of not trusting individual expertise. This reminds me of something I once read in “The Biographies of Sun Tzu and Wu Qi” in “Shiji” (“Records of the Grand Historian” 109-91 B.C.): In battle, a commander does not have to obey the orders of the king. When you confer absolute authority upon a person or you yourself are entrusted with power and responsibility, you should keep this in mind. It is a wisdom we all know, but putting the theory into practice is a challenge indeed.

*The writer is the content director at jTBC.


By Song Won-seop
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