Kim Kwang-hyun (35-SSG Landers), Lee Yong-chan (34-NC Dinos) and Jeong Chul-won (24-Dusan Bears) have avoided suspension after the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO)’s punishment committee concluded that they had consumed alcohol during the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC).
“After deliberation, the Penalty Committee decided to impose 80 hours of community service and a fine of 5 million won on Kim Kwang-hyun, who damaged the dignity of the national team by visiting a nightclub twice during the tournament, and 40 hours of community service and a fine of 3 million won on Lee Yong-chan and Jeong Chul-won, who visited a nightclub once, based on Article 151 [Impairment of Dignity] of the KBO Constitution,” the KBO announced on 7 July.안전놀이터
“First of all, the KBO deeply apologises for the lack of management of the national team squad, and we will thoroughly prepare and strive to prevent recurrence in the future by further refining the national team operating regulations,” the KBO said, adding, “We once again deeply apologise for the drinking controversy caused by the national team players at the 2023 WBC, which did not meet our expectations.”
Earlier in the day, the KBO Boardroom held a closed-door meeting to discuss the WBC National Team drinking controversy. All three players were present and gave their side of the story.
Three players say they will “accept the outcome of the punishment committee,” but how did the KBO decide?
The controversy began on the 30th of last month when a YouTube channel claimed that “three top pitchers, who are either starting aces or bullpen aces for their respective clubs, were confirmed to have been in and out of a bar in Akasaka, Tokyo, between the night of 8 March and the early hours of 11 March.”
An investigation by the KBO and nine clubs identified the players as Kim Kwang-hyun, Lee Yong-chan and Chung Chul-won. They apologised for drinking during the tournament. They explained that they did not visit a snack bar the day before the game, as some claimed, and that they drank alcohol after the game against Japan on 10 March. They also denied “hiring female hostesses.
Prior to the punishment committee meeting, the KBO Investigation Committee requested the players to submit statements of explanation and conducted a face-to-face interview with them. The Investigation Committee also contacted the managers of the named Tokyo nightlife establishments by phone to verify the time and date of entry, payment, and the presence of staff.
Separately, the Investigation Committee conducted three full investigations of all KBO players, except for two players who were playing in overseas leagues, to determine whether they had access to entertainment venues during the tournament, and all 25 players, except for Kim Kwang-hyun, Lee Yong-chan, and Chung Chul-won, confirmed that they had no access to entertainment venues.
“The three players under investigation submitted credit card usage details to identify their whereabouts in Tokyo, and the investigation committee made efforts to verify the facts through face-to-face interviews with the players and the managers of the bars,” the KBO said. “As a result of the investigation, during the official period from the team’s arrival in Tokyo on 7 March to the game against China on 13 March, Kim Kwang-hyun entered the venue twice, once on 7 March when the team arrived in Tokyo and again on 11 March, shortly after the game against Japan ended. Chung Chul-won accompanied Kim Kwang-hyun on one occasion on the 11th, and Lee Yong-chan entered the location separately from the two players on the 11th after the end of the Japan game.”
Kim Kwang-hyun, Lee Yong-chan, and Jeong Chul-won bowed their heads together before the game on the first day.
Kim Kwang-hyun said, “I am standing in front of the media and fans to apologise for my unacceptable behaviour during the WBC. I would like to express my sincere apologies to all fans, media, and baseball players who love baseball for acting without thinking during the national tournament for whatever reason. As a veteran of the team, I regret that my thoughts were very short and I was unable to control myself.”
Lee Yong-chan also apologised, saying, “Firstly, I would like to apologise to the fans who supported me as a national team member and to all the officials for the disappointment. I am deeply remorseful for drinking alcohol during the international tournament for whatever reason. I will act more carefully as a professional athlete in the future.”
Chung added, “I acted in a shameful manner at a time when many people were disappointed with the national team’s poor performance. I sincerely apologise. It was an inexcusable and frivolous behaviour. I am ashamed of myself. I should have acted more responsibly as I was awarded the honour of wearing the Korean flag, but I violated the expectations and trust of the fans.”
The Korean Baseball Players Association (KPA) also bowed its head. Kim Hyun-soo (35-LG Twins), president of the players’ association, said in a statement on the morning of the 2nd, “The players’ association apologises for the drinking controversy during the WBC. We will do our best to prevent a recurrence.”
As of the 7th, Kim Kwang-hyun, Lee Yong-chan and Chung Chul-won have all been excluded from the first team roster. On the 1st, Kim Kwang-hyun cancelled his scheduled appearance against the Munhwa Samsung Electronics and was demoted to the 2nd team, and the following day, Lee Yong-chan and Chung Chul-won were also expunged from the 1st team.