Korea is not the only country where corruption in sports often becomes a hot social issue. But match-fixing scandals that hit the nation’s professional sports intermittently show that the issue requires greater attention from law-enforcement authorities, sports governing bodies and managers of pro clubs.
The first major match-fixing scandal erupted in soccer in 2011, which resulted in the indictment of 37 players. Since then, similar cases continued to strike professional sports like baseball, basketball, volleyball and e-sports in the following years.
Then the latest scandal -- which involves two pro baseball players -- tells us that the promises made by all the sports governing bodies and clubs over the past cases have gone nowhere.
Lee Tae-yang, a pitcher for the NC Dinos, allegedly played a key role in the latest match-rigging scheme, the second of its kind to strike Korean baseball since 2012. Prosecutors indicted him and two more -- a broker and the operator of an illegal sports betting house. Prosecutors also sent Moon Woo-ram, a former Nexon Heroes outfielder who has been playing for the Sangmu minor league team in lieu of military service, into military custody.
Prosecutors said the suspects conspired to fix at least four games. For instance, Lee was to allow a run in the first inning of a match against the Kia Tigers on May 29 last year. He did allow two runs in the inning, and received 20 million won ($17,500). Prosecutors said the operator of the illegal betting house earned 100 million won in a single case, part of which went to Moon.
Prosecutors said what distinguishes the case from previous match-fixing scams is that Moon, not the broker or the proprietor of the illegal betting house, proposed rigging matches. The three got together before each fixed game.
With the robust growth of the sports industry, many youths are drawn to professional sports, and some of them may be tempted to earn quick money through easier means than going through the painful and arduous way to stardom.
The flourishing of illegal online sports betting sites is another breeding ground for match-fixing. Authorities say it is difficult to catch them because many of them run their servers in foreign countries. That hardly excuses them from the responsibility of cracking down on illegal sports gambling.
One more way to prevent match-fixing scams is to toughen criminal punishment and disciplinary action taken by each sports governing body like the Korea Baseball Organization and pro clubs. It is wrong in this sense that no senior officials of the NC Dinos have taken responsibility for the scandal.