Shohei Ohtani (28), who has risen to the ranks of the top stars in the major leagues, will play for Japan at the World Baseball Classic (WBC), which will be held in March 2023. Ohtani, famous for his two-time pitching, is a fastball pitcher who throws a top speed of 165 km/h.
However, pitcher Ahn Woo-jin (23), who throws the fastest ball in Korea, will not be able to stand on the WBC stage. On November 18, 2022, the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) submitted a preliminary list of 50 players to the WBCI, the organizer of the tournament. An Woo-jin’s name was missing from this list.
Ahn Woo-jin was involved in a school violence incident in the baseball team in 2017 when he was in his third year at Whimoon High School. In August of that year, the Whimoon High School Violence Countermeasures Autonomous Committee (School Violence Committee) made a decision of ‘no action’ on four perpetrators, including An Woo-jin. However, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education called for a reconvening of the school violence committee, saying it was an ‘obvious defect’. At the time, the Office of Education was concerned that “the school could be accused of covering up or reducing the ‘school violence’ incident.”
The school violence committee, which was held again in September of the same year, issued a written apology to Ahn Woo-jin and a disposition for volunteering on campus. As a result of this disposition, An Woo-jin received a 3-year suspension of qualifications at the Sports Fair Committee of the Korea Baseball Softball Association (KBSA) in November. An Woo-jin and his family applied for a retrial to the Korean Sports Association, but the retrial in January of the following year gave the same result. At the time, the rule was that if you were suspended for more than three years for violent acts, you could not be a member of the national team permanently. That is why Ahn Woo-jin cannot play as a national representative for the Olympics or Asian Games. The WBC representative, who is not under the jurisdiction of the Korea Sports Council, has nothing to do with this discipline. However, the KBO did not select Ahn Woo-jin, who caused the school violence incident, as its representative.
In 2022, Ahn Woo-jin threw a fastball of 160 km per hour and was reborn as the best pitcher in professional baseball. And after the season, he brought up the past school violence case again. In a statement released on November 18, Ahn Woo-jin said, “The specific truth of the matter has been buried amidst criticism from public opinion. However, no matter how much time has passed, I thought it would not cover all the truth with the four-letter scarlet letter of school violence.”
Attorney Baek Sung-moon, legal representative of Ahn Woo-jin, said, “I believe that the 2017 KBSA and Korea Sports Association disciplinary actions were ‘disciplinary actions by public opinion’. Public opinion must change before taking legal action, such as filing a disciplinary invalidation lawsuit or applying for a provisional injunction,” he said. So, a kind of ‘public opinion war’ was held, but public opinion did not move much.
The position of the KBO remains the same. On December 27, KBO Secretary General Ryu Dae-hwan said, “There is no reason why the decision to exclude An Woo-jin from the list should change. In order to select Ahn Woo-jin for the national team, there must be a ‘change in the status quo’ for school violence cases and discipline.”
“It is by no means trivial.”
There were two ‘truths’ that Ahn Woo-jin’s statement and the agent’s interview with the author claimed. ‘I made an agreement with the victims right after the incident and they are doing well’ and ‘There was a fact of abuse, but the extent was minor’.
However, the two arguments do not provide sufficient reasons for ‘changing the status quo’. This is because Ahn Woo-jin had already argued at the Korea Sports Council retrial in January 2018. Multiple legal experts commented, “Even if Ahn Woo-jin’s side files a disciplinary invalidation lawsuit, the probability of winning is very low.”
There are several experts who disagree with the claim that the school violence in 2017 was minor. According to the minutes of the Whimoon High School Violence Committee meeting, Ahn Woo-jin committed a total of five acts of violence from March to early May 2017, all using tools such as mobile phones, baseballs, bats (handles), and baseball belts.
Kim Hyun-soo, former head of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea’s Sports Human Rights Special Investigation Team, said after reviewing official materials such as minutes of the meeting and the police report of the incident, he declared, “It is absolutely not a trivial matter.”
After Ahn Woo-jin started responding to the media in earnest in November 2022, Amugae Kim, former coach of Whimungo High School, interviewed a media outlet to the effect that “Ahn Woo-jin carried the rest of the perpetrator students to college.” It was the nuance that An Woo-jin took on the faults of his colleagues. Experts familiar with the school riot process called the claim “unrealistic.” At the time, the reason why Ahn Woo-jin was the only one among the four perpetrators to be punished was because his fault was the most serious. Of the eight cases of violence covered in the Minutes of the Student Violence Committee, five cases were committed by Ahn Woo-jin alone.
Whimungo is a prestigious school that has produced many professional baseball players. So, professional baseball scouts and agents are involved around the baseball team. Among them, multiple people said, “At the time, Whimungo had a lot of words about violence.”
While Ahn Woo-jin’s ‘truth’ is less explanatory, his ‘motive’ for bringing up the school violence incident five years ago seems clear. Professional baseball players are bound by the club’s exclusive right to contract until they qualify as a free agent (FA). It takes 8 seasons to obtain FA qualification. If it is a pitcher, 96 innings or more and 145 days or more of 1st team registration 메이저놀이터 are considered as one season. In his first professional season, Ahn Woo-jin could not fill the first season due to the club’s own discipline and second military service following the school violence incident. If selected as a WBC representative player, he can receive a minimum of 10 days and a maximum of 60 days of first-team registration as a reward, enabling him to advance free agency by one year. If the court invalidates the disciplinary action of the Korea Sports Council or is selected for the Asian Games team by citing an application for provisional injunction, you can also receive special military service.
Perhaps because of this motive, Ahn Woo-jin said of the 2017 school violence incident as “a small act of admonishment as a senior.” Three victims of school violence at the time who defended An Woo-jin through a statement said, “We, who were designated as victims, were not school violence, but even we cannot understand why this case is called school violence.”
Sports violence has been an old issue in the Korean sports world. Violence in schools is on the decline through various efforts. In the 2008 National Human Rights Commission’s survey on the human rights situation of athletes, 78.8% of middle and high school athletes responded that they had experienced violence. In the 2019 survey, it was alleviated to 21.5% in middle school and 23.7% in high school.
One of the reasons sports violence does not disappear is that the attitude of accepting that ‘violence is inevitable’ still remains in the sports world. In the statements of Ahn Woo-jin and his juniors, there is an attitude of reducing or tolerating the scope of violence.
Ahn Woo-jin has already paid the price for the past school violence incident. The faults of minors should be more forgiving than those of adults. However, the stance that Ahn Woo-jin, a 23-year-old adult who is not an 18-year-old high school student, now takes on school violence should be criticized independently of her past wrongdoings.