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Bae returns to U.S. after grilling

May 26,2018
Bae Ji-hwan, a shortstop playing on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league affiliate, left Korea for the United States after being investigated for assault complaints by a former girlfriend in Daegu.

The Daegu Jungbu Police Precinct announced Friday that Bae, 18, admitted to some of the complaints made by his ex-girlfriend Kim Seul-gi about an incident in which he repeatedly kicked and strangled her last December. Kim filed criminal complaints against Bae in April.

The story first made headlines in the United States on May 19 when Pirates’ manager Neal Huntington told the press that the Major League Baseball executive council had been informed of allegations against Bae and that it would review his case. He added, “At this point, consistent with MLB’s policy, Bae is permitted to participate in baseball activities during this review.”

Bae returned to Korea the same day to cooperate with the investigation.

After graduating from Kyungbuk High School, Bae signed on as a shortstop with the Atlanta Braves in Sept. 2017. He was selected as a Top 5 pick in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) draft that year. But after Major League Baseball nullified his contract with Atlanta due to the Braves’ international signing violations, Bae signed with the Pirates in March 2018 for $1.2 million. It was the franchise’s second-largest international signing ever.

His ex-girlfriend Kim, who began dating Bae in Nov. 2016, told the JoongAng Ilbo that Bae began kicking her in the back and yelling at her in the middle of a street last New Year’s Eve after he saw a text message that Kim, 18, had sent to a friend.

After several people stared at them, Bae allegedly took her into a building, slammed her against a wall and grabbed her by the hair. In the process, he almost threw her down the stairs. Kim said he punched her in the shoulder several times and strangled her until she fainted.

“When I woke up, he strangled me again,” Kim said. More physical attacks occurred until the two broke up following Bae’s signing with the Pirates in March.

In April, Kim posted pictures of her bruises on Instagram with a confession that she had been in an abusive relationship. Some baseball fans accused her of being a “gold digger” and said she got hit “because she cheated.”

According to the Daegu police, Bae told them during the investigation that “the strangling was the result of a misunderstanding” that followed when Kim told him that she was going home on the night of the incident.

Bae flew back to the United States immediately following police questioning, but the police are expected to send his case to prosecutors with a recommendation of indictment.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]