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Veteran eligible to return to KBO after 2016 incident

Korean baseball veteran Kim Sang-hyun has been ruled eligible to return to the top professional league a year after an off-field incident forced him out of competition.

The KT Wiz in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said Friday they will reinstate Kim, 36, from their restricted list and then will waive him.

The Wiz placed Kim on the list on July 13 last year, after Kim was charged with engaging in lewd conduct in public. Players on the restricted list are ineligible to perform anywhere in the KBO without permission from their original club.

Kim was eligible to come off the list after one year. The Wiz decided to take him off the list but will make him seek an opportunity on a different team after his contract expires.

The Wiz explained that they decided to part ways with Kim given the direction they’re taking.

Kim was voted the league MVP in 2009 while playing for the Kia Tigers, with 36 home runs, 127 RBIs and a .315/.379/.632 line. He had a string of sub-par seasons but enjoyed a career renaissance with the Wiz in 2015, hitting 27 homers and driving in 88 runs in the club’s inaugural season.

In 2016, the infielder batted .225 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs in 62 games.

The Wiz said they will honor the remainder of Kim’s contract. After the 2015 season, the player signed a three-year deal with an option for a fourth year, worth up to 1.7 billion won (US$1.5 million).


National team to make early departure for pivotal match

The Korean men’s national football team will depart for Uzbekistan for a crucial World Cup qualifier earlier than scheduled to ensure thorough preparation, the sport’s national federation said Friday.

Korea will take on Uzbekistan on Sept. 5 at Bunyodkor Stadium in Tashkent. The Korea Football Association (KFA) said the national team had been set to depart for Uzbekistan on Sept. 3, but it decided to fly out on Sept. 1 instead. The match will be the final one for both nations in the current Asian qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The Taeguk Warriors are barely holding on to the final automatic qualification spot with 13 points, sitting just one point up on Uzbekistan in second place in Group A. With two matches remaining, Iran have already secured their World Cup spot.

In Asia, the top two teams from Groups A and B can advance directly to the World Cup in Russia. Two third-place teams must go through a playoff for their final chance.

Korea can secure their ninth consecutive World Cup appearance if they beat Iran and if Uzbekistan lose to China in their World Cup qualifiers on Aug. 31. But since Uzbekistan are considered stronger than China, Group A’s worst team, the chances are Korea likely won’t secure the World Cup ticket at the end of next month.

The KFA said rescheduling the flight will give the squad more time to rest and adjust to the surroundings in Uzbekistan’s capital. Korea’s new head coach Shin Tae-yong will announce his roster for the remaining two World Cup qualifiers on Aug. 21.

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