By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, June 3 (Yonhap) -- Former major leaguer Kang Jung-ho, eyeing a return to the South Korean league under the cloud of multiple drunken driving cases, will arrive back from the United States on Friday.
Leeco Sports Agency, Kang's agency in Seoul, said Kang will land at Incheon International Airport, just west of Seoul, Friday afternoon. As is required for all international arrivals during the coronavirus pandemic, Kang will enter a two-week quarantine.
The agency said once his quarantine ends, Kang will hold a press conference to discuss his future in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).
Kang is hoping to be reunited with the Kiwoom Heroes, the last KBO team he played for before signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015. Because Kang wasn't a free agent then and went through the posting system to land his first big league deal, the Heroes retain rights to Kang and must first activate him from the "voluntarily retired" list before he can play in the KBO again.
Based on Kang's three drunken driving cases from 2009, 2011 and 2016, the KBO handed down a one-year suspension on the infielder on May 25. The ban will take effect once Kang signs a KBO deal.
The Heroes, who have the ultimate say on whether Kang can continue his career, have said they'll only begin discussing their possible future with Kang after the player speaks to the media.
Once Kang comes off the voluntarily retired list, the Heroes can either sign him or trade him.
Kang received a suspended jail term in 2017 for driving into a guardrail in Seoul while under the influence, then fleeing the scene, in December 2016. That third case effectively ended Kang's once-promising big league career.
The former KBO All-Star shortstop missed the entire 2017 season because he was unable to obtain his work permit and he appeared in only three games in 2018.
Kang's four-year deal with the Pirates expired in 2018, but the team gave him a second chance by handing him a new one-year deal for the 2019 season.
Kang led the majors with seven home runs in spring training in 2019, but in the regular season he stumbled to a .169/.222./.395 line in 65 games with 10 home runs and 24 RBIs. The Pirates released him on Aug. 4.
Kang briefly worked out with the Milwaukee Brewers' Triple-A team, but no new deal came out of it.
Kang had been among the premier sluggers in the KBO. In his last season before moving to the majors, Kang established a new KBO record for most home runs in a season by a shortstop with 40.
In 2015, Kang finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting, thanks to a .287/.355/.461 line, 15 home runs and 58 RBIs in 126 games.
Then in 2016, Kang posted a .513 slugging percentage while setting career highs with 21 home runs and 62 RBIs in 103 games. But following the DUI arrest in December that year, Kang never duplicated that level of production.
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