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Volleyball MVP Kim joins Turkish team

Status dispute of whether she is a free agent or a player on loan will be settled by FIVB

Korean volleyball star Kim Yeon-koung will play for Turkish side Fenerbahce for two years, in a provisional loan deal.

However, whether the arrangement will remain a loan will be determined by the International Federation of Volleyball (FIVB). Kim argues that she is a free agent, but her original Korean team, Heungkuk Life Insurance, claims that she is still tied to the club.

The London Olympic volleyball MVP and Kwon Kwang-young, president of the Heungkuk club, signed an agreement to send her on loan to the Turkish club during a news conference arranged by the Korea Volleyball Assocation in Seoul on Friday. Their accord allows her to play in Turkey while Kim and Heungkuk sides settle their dispute over whether she is a free agent.

The two sides also agreed to follow the FIVB’s decision on her status.

“The association sent an email to the FIVB today, asking if Kim is a free agent or not,” Park Sung-min, vice president of the Korea Volleyball Association, said in the news conference on her international move. “I will visit the FIVB next week to get its authoritative interpretation.”

Park has mediated between Kim and Heungkuk for about three weeks to strike a compromise. “It may take time, but FIVB is expected to give an answer,” he said.

Heungkuk claims its ownership of Kim, citing that she has played in the Korean league for four seasons, two seasons short of the free agency qualification as stipulated by the local association regulations. 
Kim Yeon-koung speaks during a news conference in Seoul on Friday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
Kim Yeon-koung speaks during a news conference in Seoul on Friday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)

Kim counters that she has completed all six seasons with Heungkuk, noting that she played four seasons in Korea, two years on loan at JT Marvelous in Japan and one year on loan at Fenerbahce in Turkey. She also insists that she is recognized as a free agent on the international stage, so she signed a two-year contract with the Turkish club as a free agent.

The accord signed by the two sides Friday has three points regarding Kim’s free agency.

First, Kim belongs to Heungkuk in accordance with the local association regulations and her international move will be made accordingly. Second, her stay in a foreign league should last for two years, after which she should return to Heungkuk. Third, both Heungkuk and Kim hold the right to choose a foreign club to which she will move, the Korea Volleyball Association will mediate in the matter of team selection, and Kim and Heungkuk will accept FIVB’s ruling.

But they did not clarify what aspects that ruling should cover.

“If I am recognized clearly as a free agent by the FIVB this time, I think I’ll have a wider scope of choices,” Kim said.

Kwon said that local rules of each member country should be respected if the FIVB leaves the matter back to the Korea Volleyball Association.

“I praise Kim, Heungkuk and association officials for striking a conditional agreement,” said Yim Tae-hee, president of the Korea Volleyball Association. “The association will handle the issue in a neutral position.”

Kim will leave for Turkey on Saturday.

By Chun Sung-woo (