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Korean baseball: Could scandal unseat the country's most lucrative sport?

As Korea's eight baseball teams wind up spring training in the US and Japan, their sport is reeling under a bribery scandal that could threaten baseball’s ascent as the national pastime.

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Professional baseball here is reeling under a bribery scandal that threatens to slow the game’s ascent as Korea's national pastime while the country's eight teams wind up spring training in the US and Japan.

Anyone can bet online on anything from the next batter to the next pitch. The problem is that gangsters see easy money in fixing bets by bribing athletes. Prosecutors, hoping to snuff out the latest scandal before it spreads beyond a small number of players and "brokers," indicted two pitchers last week but acknowledge defeating the problem won't be easy.

News of the scandals comes as a special shock to US major league veteran Jerry Royster, the only foreigner ever to manage a Korean team. “I never saw anything like that,” says Mr. Royster, who counts his stint as manager for the Lotte Giants from 2008 through 2010 as “one of my most memorable experiences in my 40 years in the game.”

Royster, taken on this season by Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine as his third-base coach,  says “it’s great” that investigators could “get to the bottom of this horrible scandal.”  He adds in an e-mail exchange in the middle of spring training in Florida: “ I am sure it never happened on my team.”

A major question, though, is how did bribery become part of Korean baseball – and other sports such as soccer and volleyball?


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