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League decides Bears president didn’t bribe former referee

July 05,2017
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The Doosan Bears and the LG Twins during the second playoff game on Oct. 17, 2013, at the Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul. The Bears defeated the Twins to advance to the Korea Series. [JOONGANG PHOTO]
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Is it really possible to guarantee a win in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) with only 3 million won ($2,609), when teams typically spend about 30 to 40 billion won per season?

Well, that depends on how you spend it. Kim Seung-young, president of the Doosan Bears, gave 3 million won to Choi Gyu-soon, the referee of the KBO playoff between the Doosan Bears and the LG Twins in October 2013.

“He got in a drunken-driving related accident, so he needed settlement money,” Kim said on Monday. “Since I’ve known him personally, I lent him the money.”

At the time, the Bears were scheduled to play their first playoff game against the Twins, but about ten days after Kim transferred the money, Choi made another request for more money. At the time, the Bears had defeated the Twins and were preparing for their Korean Series game against the Samsung Lions.

Kim rejected Choi’s request, as there were rumors regarding Choi’s gambling addiction, and Choi resigned at the end of the 2013 season. Once the incident was revealed, the KBO held a committee meeting and gave Kim a strict warning in March.

“If Kim wanted to match-fix, then he would have provided money to Choi the second time, but he didn’t,” said the KBO. “And through monitoring the game, we didn’t see any sign of Choi intervening in match fixing.”

Complicating matters is the fact that before Choi was a referee, he was a practice player for the Bears, which is when the two first met, as Kim was a team staff member then.

Under KBO regulations, it is strictly banned for league associates to lend or guarantee money to other associates. Since Kim violated this rule, he submitted a letter of resignation on Tuesday.

Unlike in Major League Baseball (MLB) or Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), all KBO referees are former players. Most played in the KBO and all at least played in high school. As a result, players, managers, club associates and coaches have some sort of relationship with each other.

But this may all soon be irrelevant, since now that the video referee system has been proven to provide more accurate judgments, fans may soon be watching games without referees.

BY KIM SEEK [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]