Bourgo: When ‘mercenaries’ first invaded the Korea Baseball Organization

From SABR member Patrick Bourgo at the Korea Times on August 19, 2014:

The first wave of foreign players came to Korea to join the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) in 1998.

While there had been ethnic Koreans from abroad playing professional baseball in Korea since the early 1980s, this article will focus on the group that joined in 1998 and were referred to as “yongbyeong” (mercenaries), a widely used term to describe foreign athletes in Korea.

Decision to bring foreign players

KBO officials were already talking about bringing in foreign players as early as the end of the league’s first season in 1982.

While there were no serious discussions at that time, it was speculated by some that foreign players would be imported from the United States within five to seven years. Nippon Professional Baseball, Japan’s professional baseball league which had served as the template for the KBO, had been featuring American players for decades.

As we now know, that time frame was a little overly optimistic and it wouldn’t be until 1998 that the first group would join the professional ranks of Korean baseball.

Why was the decision made to bring in foreign talent?

Read the full article here:

Originally published: August 20, 2014. Last Updated: August 20, 2014.