[j-ball] Unionized Korean Players Released
- Korean League Expels Unionized
By Thomas St. John
SEOUL, Korea--After a group of players from the Korea Baseball
Organization formally announced they had formed a union, the KBO
and team presidents held an emergency meeting the following morning at
league headquarters in Seoul. Then the league office dropped a bomb
on the newly formed union by expelling all members from the league.
At the meeting, deputy secretary general Lee Sang-il read a short
prepared statement that said that all 75 players who had signed their
names to a list to join the union were, effective immediately,
unconditionally released from league service. He went on to say that the
season would go ahead and open on schedule without the unionized
The move came as a bit of a surprise to players who were contacted
immediately following the announcement at KBO headquarters. Within
15 minutes, one player contacted by the Korea Times expressed shock
that he was suddenly out of a job this season.
"I cannot believe it," said the player, who wished not to be named. "I will
call teammates now and inform them of what has happened but in my
opinion, this will only make our thinking stronger."
During a news conference at the KBO, Lee Sang-kook, secretary
general of the league, said that if any player were to renounce the union,
they would be allowed back into the league and immediately be
reinstated. No questions asked.
The team presidents and KBO came together quickly and seemed to be
both highly organized and full of resolve.
"We will not even entertain the idea of a union at this time," said Lee
Sang-hyun, manager of the KBO's Operations Division. "We have no
plan to ever negotiate with any kind of a player union at all."
Some of the 75 players who have joined the union are the core players
of the league. Big names like Yang Jun-hyuk of the Haitai Tigers; You
Ji-hyun, of the LG Twins; Chong Su-kun and Shim Jong-su of the
Doosan Bears; and Song Jin-woo of the Hanwha Eagles, who was also
elected as the union's chairman. Song became the first player in KBO
history to sign a lucrative multiyear contract after the onset of free
agency late last year.
The timing could not be worse for the league, which is coming off its first
profitable season in four years and was planning to make a surge
forward to win back the fans they had lost over the years.
From Baseball America Online