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S. Korea's top baseball league to resume discussion on expansion

All Headlines 15:39 July 10, 2012

SEOUL, July 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's top baseball league will resume discussing an expansion to 10 clubs in the near future, officials said Tuesday.

The presidents of the nine teams in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) decided in their board meeting Tuesday to ask the league commissioner's office to handle the expansion issue, KBO officials said. The move represents a turnabout from the teams' position last month, when they said they would put any talk of further expansion on hold.

The team representatives in June said an addition of another club would water down the talent level across the league and there isn't sufficient infrastructure in place to host an extra team. The KBO today has eight clubs, but the ninth club, called the NC Dinos, will join them next year.

Baseball officials have called for a 10th team to make for an even-number of teams to reduce scheduling headaches. But at least three of the existing teams opposed the idea.

The controversy over the expansion has divided the baseball community.

The KBO players' association threatened to boycott the All-Star Game on July 21 if the league didn't approve the expansion plan. Groups representing retired players and managers have also called on the KBO and team executives to give the green light to expansion plans.

Yang Hae-young, the KBO's secretary general, said Tuesday that team presidents had a productive meeting.

"There was a fair amount of progress on this issue," Yang said, without elaborating further. "We will soon meet with the players' association to go over the progress that was made today. Team leaders all agreed that there shouldn't be a boycott of the All-Star Game."

The Dinos received the go-ahead sign last year and will join the KBO in 2013. The Dinos are currently playing in the minor league.

KBO clubs are owned by private companies, which include some major conglomerates such as Samsung, Doosan and LG.

So far, two regional governments have stepped up and declared their intentions to host the 10th KBO club.

The city of Suwon in Gyeonggi Province, just south of Seoul, submitted its letter of intent in March last year. North Jeolla Province formed a consortium of four cities and towns -- Jeonju, Gunsan, Iksan and Wanju -- to push its case in August last year.

Suwon and Jeonju have been home to two now-defunct KBO teams, the Hyundai Unicorns and the Ssangbangwool Raiders, respectively. Both regional governments have pledged to offer full support to the corporation that steps in as the title sponsor for the potential 10th team and to foot the bill for remodeling of an existing stadium or construction of a new one.

Both regions believe a new baseball team would revitalize local economies and galvanize their communities around the nation's most popular sport.

The KBO, which had its first season in 1982, has enjoyed an unprecedented run of popularity in recent seasons. It has set a single-season attendance record in each of the past three seasons and is on pace to top 7 million fans this year for another record.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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