Geum Yi

Korean baseball team president offers to quit after allegedly spying on own players

November 6, 2014
Lotte Giants President Choi Ha-jin, left, and General Manager Bae Jae-hoo offered to resign. (Yonhap)

Lotte Giants President Choi Ha-jin, left, and General Manager Bae Jae-hoo offered to resign. (Yonhap)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — The troubled South Korean baseball club Lotte Giants announced Thursday their president, Choi Ha-jin, has offered to resign, faced with charges that he had been the mastermind behind alleged illegal surveillance of his players during the past regular season.

The Busan-based Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club said Choi has expressed his intent to step down from his post but has not yet handed in his formal resignation as of Thursday afternoon.

The Giants added that Bae Jae-hoo, the club’s general manager, submitted his resignation letter Wednesday afternoon to also take the fall for the mess.

Choi has emerged as the principal figure in the allegations that the Giants’ officials inspected their players on road trips by reviewing closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage at team hotels.

These charges were first raised in a local media report earlier this week, and Rep. Sim Sang-jung, a legislator with the minor opposition Justice Party, unveiled documents on Wednesday that claimed allegations of the Giants’ illegal surveillance were true.

The media report said Choi had ordered team officials to secure footage from the CCTV installed at lobbies of the Giants’ road hotels so he could keep better track of players’ whereabouts at night after games.

The report said Bae tried to stop Choi from carrying out his surveillance, but the team president refused to listen.

In a separate media interview, Choi acknowledged that he’d ordered reviews of CCTV footage, but said he’d also told the front office, the manager and the coaches to first let the players know about his plan to inspect them.

The Giants have been in turmoil since the end of the regular season. After missing the postseason for the second straight year, their manager Kim Si-jin resigned after the team’s final regular season game Oct. 17.

Late last month, a report in a local sports newspaper claimed that the Giants’ players voiced their strong disapproval of a managerial candidate that they felt was too close with the management for their liking.

The team’s captain, Park Joon-seo, sent a group text message to reporters to refute the earlier story on brewing mutiny, but only hours later, the players issued a statement saying the text had been sent under pressure from the front office.

They also called for the team’s head of baseball operations to resign, claiming he’d long been the root of the problems by creating factions in the club house and fostering mistrust between the players and the coaches. That official has since offered to resign but is still with the club for the time being.

The Giants, who once boasted one of the KBO’s largest and most loyal fan bases, saw their home attendance get slashed from the league-leading 1.37 million fans in 2012 to about 830,800 fans this year, averaging a shade under 13,000 fans per game at 28,000-seat Sajik Stadium.

Before Choi’s resignation offer, angry fans gathered at Sajik to call for the complete overhaul of the front office.