GWANGJU/SEOUL, April 30 (Yonhap) -- In a bizarre and controversial development, an umpire was replaced following a blown call in the middle of a game between the Kia Tigers and the SK Wyverns in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) Tuesday night, prompting questions as to whether the move might have been intended as a punishment.
At the Tigers' home in Gwangju, about 330 kilometers south of Seoul, second base umpire Na Gwang-nam was taken out of the game in favor of an alternate, Park Keun-young, before the start of the top of the third inning.
Na later cited an unspecified illness as the reason for his abrupt departure from the game, but because the change came an inning after Na missed a call on a steal at second base, it fueled speculation that the umpire was replaced as a penalty.
In the top of the second inning, SK's Cho Dong-hwa attempted to steal second base. Replays showed he was tagged out by Kia second baseman An Chi-hong before getting to the bag, but Cho was called safe by Na.
The Tigers' manager, Sun Dong-yol, left the dugout to argue but the call wasn't overturned.
The Tigers were trailing 4-0 before the steal and went on to lose the game, 18-5.
Under the official rules in South Korean baseball, umpires may only be replaced during a game in case of an illness or an injury.
Addressing the media after the game, Na said he asked to be taken out because he "wasn't feeling well." Na also said he hadn't watched the replay of the disputed steal.
Do Sang-hoon, the head of the umpires' committee at the KBO, said Na had been under the weather for a few days.
"He had been dealing with flu for several days but he wanted to take the field as a responsible umpire," Do explained. "(Replacing an umpire during a game) is not very usual."
The KBO's message board was bombarded with calls to introduce instant replay. Before the start of this season, Yang Hae-young, the KBO's secretary general, had said the league this year will study the feasibility of adopting the video review process, with an eye of putting it in place by as early as 2015.
Major League Baseball expanded its instant replay starting this season to cover fair or foul calls and force plays at bases, among others, in addition to home run calls.
The KBO also faced heavy backlash last season after a string of mishaps by its umps.
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