Kim Jong-kook’s shocking suspension… Embarrassed KIA can’t do this or that
Just two days before departing for spring training, the cat was literally out of the bag for KIA. An investigation was launched against the team’s head coach, Kim Jong-guk, and the organization decided to suspend him and wait it out. In the meantime, the time until the start of the season continues to dwindle.
The KIA Tigers shocked the baseball world by officially announcing on the 28th that they had suspended manager Kim Jong-kook. ‘On the 25th, we confirmed that manager Kim Jong-kook is being investigated by the investigative authorities, and on the 27th, we confirmed this in a meeting with him,’ the team said, explaining that ‘the team has decided that he cannot perform his duties as a manager normally while the investigation is ongoing, so we have suspended him.
According to sources, Kim was recently subpoenaed by prosecutors. It was not disclosed exactly what the charges were, but it was confirmed that they were not related to the corruption of the parent company of an independent league team that was recently reported to the KBO Clean Baseball Center. However, it is clear that he was investigated for suspicions related to bribery, and after confirming this through a tip-off, Kia became upset and conducted an interview with Kim. Kim reportedly admitted that he had been investigated.
In a country with a presumption of innocence, an investigation is not enough to confirm suspicions. Kia must have had the same concerns. However, since the investigation is just beginning and the case is far from closed, it is appropriate to take a cautious look at the situation. It’s hard to imagine Kim leading a training exercise when the prosecution has just begun. It’s even harder for him to lead the Canberra camp from Australia, more than 10 hours away by plane. As a result, the Kia decided that it would be difficult for Kim to lead the camp properly, so he was suspended from his duties and the camp was handed over to head coach Jin Gap-yong.
Kia’s embarrassment is palpable. Usually, clubs take a conservative approach to management, assuming the worst case scenario, and Kim’s investigation is a major adverse event that is not even in that worst case scenario. A KIA official said, “It’s early in the investigation. We’ll have to keep an eye on the outcome of the investigation and do our own research.” In other words, Kia doesn’t have much information about Kim’s case right now.
For now, the assessment is that Kia made the best choice it could. It was going to come out at some point, one way or another, since they were under investigation. If it was revealed that he was still in charge of the camp after the investigation, it would have been even worse, and the impact on the athletes would have been even greater. The team will leave the country in a depressed mood, but it is important for the camp to settle down and go back to the original plan of the coaching staff. Head coach Jin Gap-yong’s shoulders are heavy.
However, there are also opinions that there is nothing that can be done in the future. This is a problem, that’s a problem. The best thing for KIA would be for the investigation to be concluded quickly and one way or another before the season starts. If the coach is exonerated and has a solid case for clearing his name, you may want to consider keeping him in charge, albeit with some image damage. There’s no good reason to fire an innocent coach. Especially not so close to the season. This is the best case scenario for KIA. On the other hand, if Kim is guilty, the club can charge him with disgracing the organization and begin the process of removing him.
In fact, in March of last year, KIA responded to allegations of Jang Jeong-seok’s demand for hush money by investigating the matter and quickly pulling out the dismissal card. Jang, who took over ahead of the 2022 season, brought in starting catcher Park Dong-won in a massive trade with Kiwoom at the beginning of the 2022 season that included designation rights, cash, and players. At the time, KIA was struggling with its catching staff, and Park was seen as the right man to solve the problem.
However, the matter was complicated when it was revealed that Jang had asked for money from Park, who was set to become a free agent (FA) after the 2022 season. Jang claimed it was a joke, but the recording Park submitted to the Korea Baseball Organization showed more evidence that it wasn’t a joke. It was a conversation that everyone could have felt that way. As soon as KIA realized this, they took immediate action to dismiss him. He was suspended for disgracing the organization.
However, it is also said that the case surrounding Kim is of a different nature than that of Jang. Mr. Zhang’s crimes were very clear on the recordings. He could have been removed from office before the prosecution or police investigation was complete, or even started, and then moved on. However, investigating Kim’s case would be difficult for KIA to do on its own. Since it’s a bribery allegation, you have to look at accounts and other places, and the Kia is not an investigative organization. For now, we can only rely on Kim’s statement. In any case, we have to wait for the results of the prosecution’s investigation. Innocent or guilty, the conclusion will come from the investigative agency.
The problem is the duration of the investigation. Prosecution investigations often take a long time. In fact, the KBO commissioned an investigation into Jang last year, and the investigation has not been concluded for a long time. The KBO commissioned the investigation into Jang in April 2023, but the raid on his residence in November was the first and last public action. The investigation into Jang is still inconclusive and is likely to drag on for close to a year. The Kim investigation could take even longer to conclude if there are other, unrelated developments.
If the Kim investigation drags on like this, Kia will have its work cut out for it. The presumption of innocence is not enough to justify the decision to suspend Kim, as the season will start regardless. The camp’s coaches can work together, but running the season is another matter. Anything that lasts too long is a bad thing, and it’s hard to justify firing a coach before the results of an investigation and finding a new one. The rationale for firing is lacking at this point, and finding the right coach is not easy. If the coaching staff is already in place, a coach from outside the organization is bound to create a period of confusion.
Without the final outcome of the investigation, KIA’s options are limited. It would be nice to see the results as soon as possible, but this is not something that KIA can control. This is why KIA can only say, “The final decision on the director’s residence will be made after watching the investigation. A quick decision could be made if the investigation reveals new circumstances or the club’s own understanding of the truth. Regardless of the outcome of the case, Kia, which was scheduled to start camp this year with a vigorous effort to make a leap forward, can only breathe a sigh of relief.