Korean-Japanese Choi Jong-tae, 64, chairman of Japanese recreation giant Yamazen Kosan, was appointed a board director of the Korea Golf Association (KGA), Friday.
"This year marks the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic normalization between Korea and Japan. I would like to help two countries ease their strained ties with an amateur golf tournament this year," Choi said upon being elected to the post.
Born in Japan in 1952, he took over his father's transport business and has proved his business talent, expanding into the pachinko and leisure industry. The pachinko is a coin-operated amusement device that is very popular in Japan.
He then served various social posts, including vice president of the Junior Chamber International Korea and chairman of the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan.
Choi himself was also an athlete. He was once nominated to the Japanese junior football team when Choi was a high school student. However, due to his nationality ― "Zainichi" Korean ― Choi did not join the team.
Zainichi Koreans are permanent Korean residents with Korean citizenship in Japan. Japanese law does not allow dual citizenship for adults over 22, and required adoption of a Japanese name for citizenship until the 1980s.
Korean names were often the source of discrimination.
"I wanted to help our next-generation athletes compete in Japan without being discriminated against," Choi said.
Kim Jong-duck, 53, a Korean professional golfer on the Japanese senior tour, was also supported by Choi.
"Choi supported flight tickets, tour registration and hotel reservations when I first came to Japan for tournaments in the 1990s," Kim said.
Choi bought Daisen Golf Club near the city of Yonago, northwestern Tottori Prefecture, facing the East Sea, from Itouchu Corp. two years ago. The well-known prestigious club has been featured in many magazines, such as Golf Digest and Pargolf exe.
"I want to host a Korea-Japan amateur golf tournament at the club this November to break the diplomatic stalemate between two countries," Choi said.
He already met delegates of the KGA and JGA (Japanese Golf Association) earlier this year to discuss the event.
"I will provide the whole sponsorship for the event. I hope the event will contribute to the relationship of two countries," Choi said.