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Federation hits a foul ball with agricultural lobby

Jan 17,2007
Some Korean farmers don’t want to play ball.
Farm groups are loudly denouncing plans announced by the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation, which provides financing and other support for Korean farmers, to try to buy a professional baseball club.
The federation said it wanted to buy the Hyundai Unicorns; its chairman, Chung Dae-kun, had met with Shin Sang-woo, the commissioner of the Korea Baseball Organization, shortly before the announcement.
The Unicorns, based in Suwon, Gyeonggi province, have struggled with problems of poor finances and low attendance. The farming federation wants to move the team to Seoul to draw more fans to its games.
But the federation’s labor union asked pointedly what baseball teams had to do with farming. “This move proves just how anti-agriculture Nonghyup has become,” the union’s statement read, referring to the group’s shortened Korean name.
The Korean Advanced Farmers Federation, an interest group, issued a statement saying the main responsibility of the federation was to look after agricultural interests. “We find it unacceptable that Nonghyup is trying to take over a baseball team while neglecting difficulties that farmers face,” the statement read. “We can’t help but raise a fundamental question about the effectiveness of Nonghyup’s attempted takeover of the team.”
It then blamed the federation’s management for failing to consult with farmers or with the Ministry of Agriculture before speaking with the baseball officials, and called for disciplinary measures against Nonghyup officials.
The Korean Peasants League joined the attack with a statement that said a professional ball club “has nothing to do with” the livelihood of Korean farmers.
“Nonghyup has no apparent plan to find a link between the sports industry and the agriculture industry,” the league’s statement read. “Whom Nonghyup is going after with this deal, we have no idea. But if it wants to purchase a ball club, it will have to pull down its sign or we, the farmers, will take it down.”
Nonghyup’s board of directors will hold its regular monthly meeting next Wednesday. Kim Il-hwan of the company’s public relations department said it was unclear if the 35 board members would discuss the baseball ownership question at that meeting.

By Yoo Jee-ho Staff Writer
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