Protect players from dirty moneyKang Dong-hee, manager of the Wonju Dongbu Promy basketball team and a former Korean Basketball League (KBL) All-Star, went to prison Monday after being arrested on charges of fixing games. The prosecution says that he was involved in manipulating the results of the games four times from February to March, 2011 after pocketing a kickback amounting to 47 million won ($42,883) from two sports brokers. If the allegations prove true, all four major professional sports in Korea - including baseball, football and volleyball - have suffered dishonor from corruption scandals in their leagues.
But the latest match-fixing scandal is the most shocking because a famous sports leader and active manager of an increasingly popular sport was arrested for charges of match-fixing. The fall of Kang, who left a marvelous legacy in the local basketball arena as an outstanding point guard and manager, is a misfortune for all of Korean sports far beyond the individual level.
Match-fixing is a serious crime which shakes the very foundation of sportsmanship. If a sports game built on the spirit of fair competition is managed with impure intentions, it cannot but be ostracized by a number of fans across the country. The problem cannot be stopped if the authorities leave the situation unattended.
The KBL should not only proactively cooperate with the prosecution’s investigation into the ignominious scam, but also find out who the accomplices are through its own investigation. The KBL must then devise effective ways to prevent any recurrence of similar fraud.
At the same time, however, sports society must come up with solutions to safeguard both professional players and sports leaders from the lure of the dirty money offered by brokers.
The KBL and its member teams, in particular, should thoroughly examine themselves as they failed to block a bunch of suspicious brokers from entering basketball courts and making contacts with players. They need to listen to former basketball stars’ allegations that Kang probably received malicious threats from organized crime rings.
KBL Commissioner Han Sun-kyo and general managers of the 10 clubs under its umbrella must gather wisdom in order not to repeat such a shameful scandal in the court in the future.
The entire sporting circle, together with leaders of the four pro sports with disgraceful pasts, should work to find substantial solutions to the repetitive scams. Unless they do some serious soul searching, Korea’s pro sports world will go nowhere.