|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
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
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
"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
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)