Park Chan-ho to Donate Salary for Korean Baseball

Park Chan-ho /Yonhap Park Chan-ho /Yonhap

With one grandiose gesture, legendary pitcher Park Chan-ho has moved to leave another hard-to-follow footprint in Korean baseball by announcing that all of his salary for next year will be donated to build infrastructure to support amateur baseball in the country.

The veteran player, who is returning from Japan after 17 years in the U.S. Major Leagues to sign for the Hanwha Eagles, has also agreed to accept the lowest salary of W24 million set by the Korea Baseball Organization regulations in order to facilitate his return home (US$1=W1,162).

To put it differently, a superstar who at one point commanded a five-year mega-deal worth US$65 million (W84.5 billion at the time) in MLB has agreed to a salary that is usually only reserved for rookies.

Meanwhile, Hanwha accepted Park's request to use the W600 million that it had originally set aside to sign him -- W400 million for his annual salary and W200 million in the form of an incentive -- for the development of youth and amateur baseball leagues.

The relatively meager sum that will be paid separately to Park is required to register as a player in the KBO. Park revealed his intention to use the W24 million to support underprivileged children in the country.

"It's a great honor just to be able to get a chance to play in Korea," said Park at a press conference on Tuesday. "How much I get doesn't really matter. I believe that this gesture will lay a foundation for more junior players to emerge, and I hope I can be a role model for them."

Holding up the new Hanwha uniform bearing his trademark No. 61, Park was visibly moved as he spoke of his return home. "This number has always been with me, from the beginning of my career until now," he said.

Park has used the number for 18 years, since he became the first Korean in the U.S. Major Leagues in 1994 until this season in the Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan.

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 21, 2011 11:12 KST