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Go players' association postpones decision on Lee Se-dol's secession

All News 21:10 June 02, 2016

SEOUL, June 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korean professional Go players' association said Thursday it will consult with the Korea Baduk Association (KBA) before making a decision on Go master Lee Se-dol's request to secede from the group.

Lee, a ninth-dan Go player who has become a household name for having faced Google's artificial intelligence (AI) program AlphaGo in the ancient board game, last month submitted a withdrawal form to the Go players' association, saying he wants to leave the group, as he feels uncomfortable about its policy on taxing players' prize money and other activities. He also questioned the use of the money and asked to scrap the association's rule that bans nonmembers from competing in local competitions.

Lee's older brother Lee Sang-hoon, also a ninth-dan Go player, has also filed a form for his own withdrawal.

It was the first time in South Korea that pro Go players have decided to leave the association. All 320 pro Go players in South Korea are registered with the association that was established in 1967.

After the complaints were filed, Yang Gun, the head of the association, met with the two brothers and promised their complaints will be discussed as an official agenda item for its congress on Thursday. However, after four hours of discussion with some 200 members, the association failed to come up with a conclusion, saying the issue should be discussed with the KBA, the national governing body of Go.

"We decided that things that Lee pointed out on our articles and rules cannot be solved on our own," Yang said Thursday. "We will discuss the matter with the KBA before making a decision."

The younger and more famous Lee has been saying there are many problems in the association's rules, one of which requires a cut from its members' prize money.

Under such a rule, South Korean pro Go players are required to pay 5 percent of their prize money to the association when they compete in events sanctioned by the KBA.

Also for events that only offer rewards to players who advance to a certain level in the tournament, and thus bigger rewards, the association takes away 15 percent of their winnings.

For competitions held overseas, players must pay 3 percent of their earnings. The association says the money is used to support the members' welfare and promote Go across the nation. But the system forces top-class Go players like Lee to put more money into the association than those with average performances in tournaments.

Lee also complained about the association's article that says nonmembers are prohibited from competing in KBA-approved competitions.

The 33-year-old, who has won 48 titles in his career, has been claiming that there is no legally binding force to the association's articles, saying that the association is just a "social club" for Go players. The Lee brothers also hinted that they could file a lawsuit if they are blocked from competing in KBA events after they became nonmembers.

Yang agreed the rule on banning nonmembers from such competitions was wrong, and said the association will talk to the KBA to get the latter's opinion.

Other issues raised by Lee will also be on the discussion table with the KBA when they meet after the association forms a task force, he said, adding the association was also willing to fully disclose its articles.

"In the congress, our members shared thoughts that the article on nonmembers should be revised," he said. "We tried to reveal our full articles today, but we spent too much time on discussing which parts should be revised."

Yang said that Lee's withdrawal has not been approved since the association wants to discuss the matter with the KBA first. The president emphasized that the association's basic stance is to persuade Lee to stay with the group.

"The worst-case scenario is him (Lee) leaving the association and getting banned from competitions," he said.

kdon@yna.co.kr
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