KBO Commissioner Koo Bon-neung, center, and the presidents of eight baseball teams meet at the KBO's headquarters in Seoul, Tuesday, where they agreed to the forming of a 10th professional club. / Yonhap
By Kang Seung-woo
The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) gave the nod Tuesday to the establishment of a 10th club.
In a board meeting featuring its Commissioner Koo Bon-neung and presidents of eight of the professional baseball teams, the long-postponed issue passed unanimously. A representative of the Kia Tigers did not attend the meeting, but entrusted the KBO chief with his voting right.
"Although a favorable environment for the sport has not been set up, the board of directors reached the unanimous conclusion after considering the desire of the fans and the baseball circle as well as an imbalance of the league's operation with an odd number of teams," said KBO Secretary-General Yang Hae-young.
There were eight baseball clubs in action in Korea's top flight this season and the NC Dinos, based in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, will join them next year.
"A 10th club will join the top flight from 2015 after remaining in the second division for two years as the Dinos did," Yang said.
According to the KBO, it will soon receive applications for the new team and a board meeting will decide on it by early next year after evaluating the candidates.
Suwon is teaming up with telecommunications giant KT while North Jeolla Province and constructor Booyoung Group are competing to provide a home to the 10th club.
The decision came amid growing pressure from players.
The Korea Professional Baseball Players Association (KPBPA) had threatened to boycott the annual Golden Glove Awards and other off-season activities including overseas training and the World Baseball Classic (WBC) unless the KBO moved forward with expansion talks. However, on hearing the decision, the KPBPA quickly withdrew its threats.
The road to approval for the 10th club was bumpy.
In a June meeting, the directors postponed the plan, citing the possibility of a qualitative devaluation of Korean pro baseball due to a shortage of a player pool, which angered fans and the KPBPA.
As a result, the player association threatened to not to participate in the All-Star game and the WBC and the board of directors a month later said the commissioner's office would handle all expansion-related issues.
Leading presidential candidates Park Geun-hye and Moon Jae-in also back the league's expansion.