SEOUL, Feb. 8 (Yonhap) -- A teenage pitcher was suspended indefinitely by the country's top baseball agency on Wednesday, after signing with a Major League Baseball (MLB) team before graduation.
The Korea Baseball Association, the local governing body of the sport, handed down the suspension on Kim Seong-min, a 17-year-old who pitched for Daegu Sangwon High School, about 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul.
Kim will not be eligible to play or coach baseball in South Korea unless the suspension is lifted.
The former national junior team member signed a minor league contract with the Baltimore Orioles last month, becoming only the second South Korean high school sophomore to ink a contact with an MLB team. Kim's move sparked a debate on major league teams poaching of young South Korean talent.
After Bong Jung-keun, formerly with the Atlanta Braves and now with LG Twins of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), was the first player to sign with a U.S. club before his high school graduation in 1997, the KBA toughened penalties on similar moves. Under the change, only players in the final years of their study, either at high school or university, may contact Korean or foreign baseball teams. Violators are immediately suspended from playing.
This rule previously applied to two former major league players, pitcher Kim Byung-hyun and first baseman Choi Hee-seop, both of whom left Korea before finishing university and were suspended for their actions.
Both players have since had their suspensions removed and have signed with KBO teams that acquired the rights to sign them in a special draft for overseas-based players held in 2007.
Major league clubs are free to acquire any Korean player they wish, including undrafted high school students or graduates, but the KBO, which runs the nation's top baseball league, complained MLB clubs were indiscriminately signing players and making it difficult for South Korea to develop youth baseball programs.
The KBO has filed a formal complaint with the MLB, accusing the Orioles of breaking a clause in an agreement between the KBO and MLB. If a major league club wishes to contact an amateur or professional Korean player who is currently playing or has played in the country, the club must first check with the KBO for the player's status and availability.
The KBO is waiting for a response from the MLB commissioner's office, an official told Yonhap News Agency, adding that the KBO had not directly contacted the Orioles.
MLB teams are free to sign players over the age of 16 from outside the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Players from those three countries are entered in annual drafts after finishing high school.
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