Shame on the diamond

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Shame on the diamond

Korean professional baseball players are under investigation on suspicions of fixing games and illegal betting. The way they allegedly manipulated the results of ball games is shocking, and it was more diverse and bolder than ever before. It is regrettable that our sports games, which can only thrive on fair competition, are tainted with greed and dirty money.

A special investigation team in the Changwon District Prosecutors’ Office on Thursday indicted 23-year-old Lee Tae-yang, a pitcher for the NC Dinos, a pro baseball team based in the city in South Gyeongsang, on charges of game fixing in return for money in a blatant violation of the National Athletics Promotion Act. The prosecution also turned over a corruption case involving Moon Woo-ran, an outfielder in the Korea Armed Forces Athletic Corps, to the military prosecutors’ office on similar charges.

According to the prosecution, Lee received 20 million won ($17,595) last year after joining in the game fixing by following a gambling broker’s directions such as “allow runs in the first inning” or “allow a walk in the first inning.” The prosecution explains that NC Dino’s eight consecutive wins came to a halt after Lee joined in the manipulation of game results in May 2015. Moon went so far as to spontaneously propose game fixing to the broker and Lee to attract them, prosecutors say. The list seems nearly bottomless. The Seoul Metropolitan Police forwarded a case involving Samsung Lions’ pitcher An Ji-man to the prosecution on charges of compulsive gambling overseas.

What concerns us more is that the latest case shows that those involved in such scams use more diverse methods than in 2012, not to mention the larger amount of money they receive in return. Four years ago, the Korea Baseball Organization vowed to establish a monitoring system and reward whistle-blowers. But the KBO’s measures did not work. The governing body for the professional baseball league apologized for disappointing the people. On Thursday, it promised to “strictly penalize any players involved in demeaning acts, including disqualification, depending on the results of the investigations by law enforcement authorities.”

Korea’s professional baseball league has been growing thanks to its fans’ affection and support. If the game is polluted with illegalities, it will be ostracized by the fans. The prosecution must thoroughly probe the ballplayers’ shameful behavior. The KBO and its franchised ball clubs must perform some deep soul searching before it is too late.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 22, Page 34
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