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Sun denies corruption in roster selection

Oct 05,2018
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Korean national baseball team manager Sun Dong-yol speaks during his press conference at the KBO headquarters in southern Seoul on Thursday. [YONHAP]
Korean national baseball manager Sun Dong-yol on Thursday insisted he went through a fair process in assembling his Asian Games team earlier this year, responding to mounting allegations of corruption.

At a press conference at the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) headquarters in southern Seoul, Sun broke his silence on the controversy surrounding his Asian Games roster selection. Sun has been under fire for picking players who many thought were undeserving of national team spots.

Critics said the manager chose some players just to help them get military exemptions since Korea was virtually guaranteed to win the gold medal as the only fully professional team at the Asian Games.

Healthy Korean men are required to serve about two years in the military, but athletes who win a gold medal at the Asian Games are exempt from conscription.

“I can clearly state that there was absolutely no unlawful act during the selection of the national team, nor were there any favors,” Sun said. “The whole process was fair. My coaching staff and I had extensive discussions on players’ statistics, positions and conditioning, among other factors. And as the manager, I made the final call.”

Korea won its third-straight gold medal in Jakarta, Indonesia, but the team’s uninspiring performance only fueled public anger.

After the Asian Games, a civic group filed a report to the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission, the state anti-corruption watchdog, alleging that Sun violated the antigraft law by picking underperforming players.

Earlier this week, the National Assembly’s subcommittee on sports said it will bring Sun in as a witness during an annual parliamentary audit next Wednesday. He is expected to be questioned about the Asian Games roster.

“I’ll be fully cooperative, but I hope I will be the last national team manager to appear at the audit,” Sun said.

Before, during and after the Asian Games, Oh Ji-hwan, shortstop for the KBO club LG Twins, has remained a lightning rod for criticism as he led the league in errors and strikeouts at the start of the Asian Games.

Oh hadn’t completed his military service before the Asian Games and received his exemption despite going just 1-for-2 with a walk in three games off the bench in Jakarta.

Mindful of scathing, vitriolic online criticism of Oh and other national team members, Sun asked the public to put an end to “groundless slander and speculation” against his players and added, “All responsibility rests with me.”

The selection of teams for past Asian Games also spurred discussion of players possibly having been picked with their military status taken into consideration. Most of the KBO’s top stars and current and future major leaguers received their exemptions at past competitions.

Fans began clamoring for a team chosen based on ability instead of one that includes a few token names based on their military status, and criticism over alleged favoritism in the selection process has reached a crescendo this year.

Sun apologized for failing to properly gauge public sentiment regarding athletes’ and their military exemptions.

“I’ll honor whatever changes the government brings to the current system on military exemptions,” the manager said. “I’ll try to keep my ears open to people who love baseball.”

Sun is considered the greatest pitcher in the KBO’s 36-year history, with a career record of 146-40 and 132 saves and a 1.20 ERA in 11 seasons. He won three regular season MVPs for the Haitai Tigers between 1986 and 1990.

Sun became the first full-time national team manager last summer, and his term runs through the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where baseball will make its return following a 12-year absence.

Yonhap