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Corruption batters Korean sports

Baseball hit by snowballing match-fixing scandal

The country’s top baseball league has become the latest victim of a snowballing match-fixing scandal that came to light earlier last month.

Kim Sung-hyun, a pitcher for the LG Twins in the Korea Baseball Organization, has told prosecutors in Daegu that he accepted bribes from a broker to take part in spot-fixing in 2011. 

Players and coaches of LG Twins stand in a circle during the team’s overseas training in Okinawa, Japan, Tuesday. (Yonhap News)
Players and coaches of LG Twins stand in a circle during the team’s overseas training in Okinawa, Japan, Tuesday. (Yonhap News)

Prosecutors in Daegu took the 23-year-old into custody Tuesday after gathering a testimony from a broker named Kim, who was arrested last week.

The LG Twins pitcher had initially denied the claim, but admitted later his involvement in spot-fixing after nearly eight hours of questioning, according to the prosecutors.

Unlike match-fixing, spot-fixing does not necessarily involve any direct attempt to influence the results of games, especially in team sports such as baseball where playing to a draw or a fixed score require the cooperation of many players.

According to the prosecutors, spot-fixing in the Korean baseball league has its roots in illegal betting, where bettors can bet on certain aspects of games, such as a base on balls in the first inning.

Kim, who joined the Twins last July from the Nexen Heroes, allegedly received bribe money from the broker in return for deliberately allowing walks during games in the 2011 season.

While pitching for the Nexen Heroes, Kim intentionally walked a batter in the first inning during the game against Samsung Lions on April 24. He tried it again on May 14 during the game against LG Twins.

With the two spot-fixing attempts, Kim allegedly received a total of 10 million won ($8,900) from the broker, according to the prosecutors.

Meanwhile, the Daegu Prosecutors’ Office announced that they gathered a testimony on additional spot-fixing in the KBO league.

LG Twins pitcher Park Hyun-jun, who is also allegedly linked with the broker, returned Wednesday from the team’s overseas training in Japan, and is expected to be summoned by the prosecutors within this week. The 26-year-old Park reportedly received 6 million won in return for his involvement in spot-fixing.

The news followed an ongoing investigation that began in early February, which led to the discovery of 15 professional volleyball players involved in match fixing.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism recently revised the sports promotion law to impose severe penalties for illegal gambling and corruption in sports.

Under the revised law, players convicted of match-fixing attempts will be banned for life and also jailed for up to five years or fined a maximum of 50 million won. 

By Oh Kyu-wook