SEOUL, Dec. 13 (Yonhap) -- Former Major League Baseball All-Star Park Chan-ho will be able to play in his home country next year.
Presidents of the eight current clubs in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) and one expansion team set to join the league in 2013 on Tuesday instituted a rule change to allow Park to join the league next season, the league office said.
The veteran right-hander was released by the Orix Buffaloes in Japan in October.
Under the previous rule, Park would have had to enter the KBO draft in August next year and, if picked, wait until 2013 to be eligible.
According to the rule, a player who left for an overseas league before 1999 must enter a rookie draft to join the local league for the first time. Park, who signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1994 and has never before played in the KBO, is currently the only active player to whom this rule applies.
Park has pitched 17 years in the majors and one year with the Buffaloes. He has repeatedly said he'd like to end his career on his native soil.
The Hanwha Eagles, based in Daejeon, some 160 kilometers south of Seoul, reserve the prior rights to Park based on his hometown.
Park is from Gongju, South Chungcheong Province, just north of Daejeon.
The Eagles had pushed for the rule change so that they could sign Park and put him in the rotation immediately without wasting their draft pick and waiting a full season for the 38-year-old pitcher.
Following the meeting of KBO teams' general managers early last month, some officials reportedly demanded that the Eagles must concede their first round draft pick next year in exchange for putting Park in their lineup in 2012.
But after Tuesday's decision, the Eagles don't have to give up any draft pick and simply have to ink Park to a deal.
Park is the first South Korean to play in the majors. In 17 years with seven different clubs, the former All-Star won 124 games, the most ever by an Asian pitcher in the majors, and put up a 4.36 earned run average (ERA).
His best seasons came with the Los Angeles Dodgers, his first club. From 1997 to 2001, Park averaged 15 wins a season, including a career-best 18 wins in 2000. After his lone All-Star selection in 2001, Park signed a free agent deal worth $65 million over five seasons.
But he was hampered by injuries during his two and a half years in Texas, and his days as a frontline starting pitcher were effectively over by 2005.
Park became a free agent after the 2010 season but didn't generate much interest in the majors. He said he joined Orix since it offered him a chance to start. He spent the majority of his final four years in the majors as a relief pitcher.
But his stint with the Buffaloes barely lasted a season. Once again bothered by injuries, Park only pitched in seven games, andnone after June, going 1-5 with a 4.29 ERA.
박찬호, 18년만에 韓마운드 오른다
'코리언 특급' 박찬호(38)가 내년 시즌 한국 프로야구 마운드에 오를 수 있게 됐다.