Hockey players in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, have been frustrated by what they see as unfair fees for using the city’s ice rink, although a recent decision by the Korea Ice Hockey Association might change that.
Jeonju resident Paul MacDonald said his team was being charged 300,000 won ($270) per hour for use of the Hwasan Ice Rink, while instructors using it for work and junior teams were paying just 60,000 won.
The rink said that it was provincial policy to charge 240,000 won for group use and 300,000 won for for-profit use, while rink time for elite competitors -- those in or destined for national- or provincial-level sports -- was charged at 60,000 won. Asked why the team was apparently being charged the for-profit rate, the rink said that fees sometimes rose to cover higher running costs, such as electricity bills.
MacDonald said he had not seen many elite players at the other sessions, but conceded that the junior teams could be considered feeder teams in some sense. He said he recognized the need for coaching, and was not asking for the coaches to pay more, but questioned the wisdom of subsidizing them when the senior teams they might play for were priced out.
“It seems that Korea is only focusing on building ‘elite’ athletes, but they have a very, very small pool of players to choose from. We want to have a recreational team that travels to a few tournaments a year, somewhere for university students, adults and expats to come and enjoy their hobby,” said MacDonald, who also said that his was the only senior team in the area.
“It doesn‘t make sense to have a 500 percent increase in prices where the coaches are making a profit and we can’t even afford to rent the ice.”
A member of staff at the rink said he did not know of other local senior teams, but also did not know if it was the only one. The staff member added the team should try joining the Korea Ice Hockey Association if it wanted the cheaper rate.
The KIHA said it has only accepted elite teams, but following an agreement with Korea Council of Sport for All, planned to allow other teams to join, including recreational teams. However, it said details of when and how teams could join had not been finalized.
MacDonald said that such a move would be welcome, but remained skeptical. He believes teams such as his, which have amateur players with overseas experience, could benefit the game in Korea, but the KIHA had not been willing to help them in the past.
“I’m not holding my breath, but I’ll keep plugging away at it,” he said.
By Paul Kerry (firstname.lastname@example.org)