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Introduction

An insight in the earnings in Korean and some other countries written by Lee HongRyul, Baduk columnist for Chosun Daily.

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900 million won
900 million won? Wow, I think I will be a professional baduk player.
(editor: 900 million won is about € 600,000.=)

Everyone in the family gathered to celebrate the new year.
My youngest nephew was curious about Baduk community. He is about 8 kyu.
"Uncle, Could I earn a lot of money if I became a professional baduk player?"
"Of course, a successful one could earn more money than a professional baseball player"
"Ha! Then how much a player such as Lee ChangHo has earned?"
"I am not sure of the total amount, but his last year's income was about 900 million won"
"Wow!, Professional baduk players are rich!. Shall I try to become a professional baduk player?
I don't enjoy studying at school. Hehe?"

His giggles were in my ears in the car returning home. Annual income of 900 million won is 75 million won a month. Enormous amount. No wonder he was so impressed. Even a minister of our government, or even our president could not earn that much. When we divide Lee ChangHo's annual income by 76 games he had played last year, it is 12 million per a game. When we roughly guess he played 120 moves average per a game, it is 100,000 won per a move (editor: about € 50,=).
Dreamlike figure for a common citizen.

Broadening our view, the enormity of 900 million won hits us more vividly. Korea has been in recession for quite a while and ordinary people have been struggling to make ends meet.
Companies are busy laying off less essential staff. University graduates are walking about looking for work.. 'Oryukdo - it is a thief who still is working at his age of 56', or ' Saojeong - Retirement at the age of 45' are words which have already lost their sour humour.
Daily news papers are covered with sad stories of children who are suffering poverty in the slums.

Being a professional player is not so bad against this background. There are other successful professionals who do not earn as high income as Lee ChangHo's but still earn a lot.
For instance, Lee SeDol earned 500 million, and Cho HunHyun earned 400 million won last year.
Yu ChangHyuk, Song TaeGon and Park YoungHoon also earned more than a hundred million won. Especially considering their age, Song and Park could not have grabbed that much money if they were not baduk players. Lee, ChangHo made record of earning more than 1 billion won a year in 2001. Cho ChiHun's income in his haydays was even higher.

But... but? Do you think all professional baduk players are rich? Well? I am afraid it is not quite the case.

Last year, Kim SeungJoon ranked 10th with 40million won among Korean professionals. The news article that had this information was titled "If the 40 million won ranked 10th, what happens to lower income professionals?" As a matter of fact, it concerns me too. I am not concerned with Kim SeungJoon but with others who are lower than 100th in income. Incidentally, there are some 197 professionals in Korea currently.

It is waste of time to explain how difficult it is to become a professional baduk player. It is only a common sense among baduk lovers. The entry into the professional rank is through the most narrow gate of all. In other words, it is the most difficult skill to master to be qualified with. It is not very wrong to assume that a professional player is a genius. Usually, one's excellence is the indication of his/her income level. But it seems professional baduk players are not rewarded as expected.

Let's look at overseas situation with baduk players.
Honinbo Jangshi (editor: Cho U) ranked top in 2003 in Japan with his annual income of 78 million Yen (editor: about € 550,000.=). Yamashita, the Kisei was the second with the only 24,000 yen less than Jangshi's. In China, Chang Hao earned 1,110,000 Yuen (editor: about € 110,000.=), and Wang Lei marked 760,000 Yuen.
Considering the relative buying capacity of the currencies, they are about the same with income level. That leads us to realize that the lower ranking players will find it not easy to manage their living. There are 450 professionals in Japan, 300 in China, and 25 in Taiwan. So there are about 1000 professional players in those 4 major baduk countries.

This time, let's compare "Lee ChangHo's 900 million won" with stars of other fields. Jung SooGeun was recruited by the Lotte baseball team for 4 billion won for 6 years, which is 670 million won per a year. Ma HaeYoung got scouted by Kia for 2.8 billion won for 4 years.
We feel Baduk players can maintain their self-esteem according to these comparative figures.

But as soon as we turn to overseas situation, we get dizzy. Park ChanHo has contracted with Texas team for 71 million dollars for 5 years and Kim ByungYon has exceeded Park with 10.1 million dollar for 2 years.

We should take a few things into consideration when we compare baduk players with sports stars. Sportsmen can play only during specific periods a year while baduk players can play any time all year round. More importantly, Length of their active periods are very much different. One can start his/her Baduk professional life as young as 12 years of age and continue on until after 60. However, sportsmen only have short professional period while they are youthful and energetic.

The most significant difference may be their performing scale. Famous sportsmen are selectees from competitions where so many people from all over the world fiercely compete. But baduk players compete only among Koreans, Japanese and Chinese in one corner of our globe.
Professional sports are the wonder babies raised by western capitalism. Being nurtured in the arms of huge commercialism, they are growing everyday. Baduk would not be able to catch up with those professional sports in terms of the scale of commercial activities or the income.
"Lee ChangHo's 900 million won" has dual faces. When we look at today's grim social situation, it is huge. After all there are many people who stay overnight on the concrete floor of subway stations in this freezing weather. It is only natural to become envious to see Lee ChangHo earning 100,000 won putting one stone on the baduk board as a "baduk god". It is not very odd to see people feeling very small.
Capitalism categorizes people according to their income levels. At the same time, there are so many different views on the validity of income size pertinent to the particular professions.
Regardless of size of the market or regions of baduk, Lee ChangHo is the best who is holding 3 world titles. There is huge gap between him and number ones of other fields in respect to talent, the process of accomplishment, chance expense, and even the influence.
1000 poor professional baduk players in the lower layers of pyramid show us it is not so well rewarded field.
Ma Xiaochun's remark "my income is not enough to live in Beijing" shocked baduk people last year.
I wish baduk could be globalized in the near future so that the number one in this field could earn as much as Tiger Woods. I also wish those 190 professional baduk players in Korea and 1000 overseas professionals could get rewarded appropriately for their talent and effort. Oh! there is more urgent thing. I should pray for quick economic recovery that can provide shelter for people in the subway stations, and provide jobs to young people.
My nephew who shows little sign of excellence to become a professional baduk player, What can bring him the annual income of 900 million won in the future?

(Written by: Lee HongRyul, Baduk columnist for Chosun Daily)

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