Youman ready to move past Kim’s Mistake

Posted by at 11 June, at 23 : 09 PM Print

By Philip Riccobono

The hot baseball topic today around the Korean baseball world left us with no shortage of debate over racial sensitivity and cultural awareness.

Yesterday (Monday KST), KBO slugger, Kim tae-Kyun, of the Hanwha Eagles made some disparaging remarks about LHP Shane Youman, an African-American (see link for details from Jeeho Yoo’s piece in Yonhap).  Joking or not- you make the call- the comments have raised eyebrows and some heated discussion around the South Korean peninsula over the last 24-hours.  We caught up with Youman at the end of probably one of his longest, most trying days in Korea.

As a Ph.D. candidate focusing on language and culture acquisition, I wonder just how much training international athletes receive.  In the case of Kim tae-Kyun, who has served South Korea in global competition, I wonder how much cultural awareness training he has received by both Korea and his former Japanese club, Chiba-Lotte Marines.  Do pro athletes and Olympians receive a basic understanding of those they’ll encounter?

Perhaps this unfortunate incident will shed light on the KBO, bringing them to institute cultural training for native and foreign players.

Q1: How are you feeling after the last 24 hours?

A1: Since hearing about this I’ve had mixed feelings…initially after hearing about it from my translator, I laughed about it, and said it was cool, it’s ok, people make mistakes.  Said I’d address it if need be, then move on.  After thinking about what was said I felt a little upset.  That’s only natural for anyone who encounters something that’s potentially racial, no matter your ethnic background.  It’s anger, hurt, or both.

Q2: Do you find Kim Tae-kyun’s remarks racist and/or insensitive, why?

A2: After giving more thought about what was said, I didn’t think Kim Tae Kyun was being racist, or insensitive.  I feel he simply didn’t know that it wasn’t the right thing to say.  He’s not the only person in this country that’s made this mistake, and he won’t be the last.  There are lots of natives here in Korea who don’t know any better, cause they haven’t been to the states, or other places to experience what racism is first hand.  The fact that he has issued an apology says a lot about him.

Q3: Have you spoken to KTG and do you expect to hear from him personally or meet with him when Hanwha visits Busan this Fri-Sun?

A3: Haven’t spoken to him yet, but I’m sure we will speak sometime this weekend.  It’s only right that we do.

Q4: What will you say to KTK if you happen to meet him?

A4: If we do speak, I really don’t know what I will say to him.  Perhaps, we can discuss something to help avoid things like this in the future.

Q5: I heard you’re not mad at him anymore, but would you be surprised if someone in the foreign pitcher community threw at him?

A5:  I was never mad at him.  I was a little upset about what was said, but after thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that maybe he was just trying to be funny, and didn’t think about the consequences.  If someone chooses to throw at him, that’s their choice, but in this world we need to stop, and think about things before we react.  Perhaps, he simply just made a mistake, and now he’s trying to make things right.  If there’s was no remorse, or if he just tried to blame the reporter then maybe a HBP would be warranted.

Q6: I spoke to LHP Ben Jukich, LG Twins, today and he said this: ” I’ve never felt like any of the players have been racist towards me. I think this is being taken way out of context but agree with Dan Kurtz that this issue is more important than a water celebration and a DUI.  I also think Youman will laugh this off. He isn’t one to hold a grudge. He will however use this as fuel to pitch against them in the future.”

Will you use this as fuel to pitch against him in the future?

A6: Yes, Jukich is right, I did somewhat laugh it off, but I will also shed light on it, because people need to be educated on issues like this.  As far as it fueling me to pitch well against Hanwha, maybe it will, maybe it won’t.  We will just have to wait, and see.

Q7: Many people both Korean and non-Korean have attributed these statements to lack of cultural awareness; giving KTK the benefit of the doubt and accepting this, what lesson would you like for everyone to learn here.   Could a positive come out of this?

A7: I feel that yes, it is a lack of cultural awareness here for the majority.  I think KTK is part of the majority.  And, hopefully something positive can come from this.  Maybe KTK with his star status can be a voice in raising awareness to what can be considered racism here in Korea.  He has started already with his apology.

 

 

 

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