Up next are the SK Wyverns, a ballclub that had a remarkable run of winning three out of six straight Korean Series appearances (2007-2012). Those days, however, have quickly turned into urban legends with the recent downfall. What was more miserable than their current situation was the translation. All of the insults either involves online activities by their fans (for which they are infamous), or office politics involving the front office and their managers. I doubt many outsiders would have a clear understanding of the situations, but on the other hand, maybe the Wyverns are being ridiculed for creating such nonsense. I did my best to try to keep things simple and informative. So, bear with me.
- What is this series about? Also, how to insult Hanwha Eagles fans.
- How to insult KIA Tigers fans.
- How to insult Changwon NC Dinos fans.
After two straight championships in 2007 and 2008, the SK Wyverns fell three games to four on a walk-off home run against the KIA Tigers in the 2009 Korean Series. Ten days after the heartbreaking loss, then Wyverns’ President/CEO, Shin Young-chul (신영철), said this through the media:
I would like the ballclub to get rid of the reputation of being mean and provoking. Results come in second. I would like to have a team that has some holes, and one that has some makgeolli smell to it.
If you are familiar with Korean “liquorology”, makgeolli (막걸리, pronounced “MOCK-GULLY”) is a milky traditional alcoholic beverage made with rice and wheat. Enjoyed mostly by farmers and blue collar workers, (especially during breaks) the drink loosely symbolizes the common people of the Korean society.
Therefore, what Shin was trying to say was that he wanted the Wyverns to come down to Earth and play ball like the common people (which is what they are pretty much doing right now).
Fans, of course, were infuriated. Not only did they accused the front office for not being supportive of their own ballclub and the team’s playing style, the fans thought the internal logic was turning their back against their former manager and fan-favorite, Kim Sung-keun (김성근).
Kim, who grew up playing baseball in Japan, is known as a perfectionist. His infamous “Hell’s Training” (지옥 훈련), which includes a series Japanese-style training methods such as the 1,000-fungo drill and nagekomi (投げ込み, “to drive oneself to throwing”), has become his trademark – a method that did not quite match their mother company’s management philosophy.
As most fans predicted, Kim was fired in the midst of a playoff run during the 2011 season. Shin also stepped down after the 2012 season as he took a position as SK Broadband’s president of marketing operations. On April 9 of this year, Shin was charged with embezzlement. Talk about brain power…
Thus, the term “makgeolli baseball” has been attached to any misjudgment made by the front office.
“Swak” (솩) is a compressed word for the expression, “Die hard SK fans are the worst.” (스크빠들이 최악이다.) Note that Korean baseball fans has come up with an odd way of reading English abbreviations. Instead of reading lettter by letter, they will read them out as they are written (even if there are no vowels).
“Chung” (충) is the Korean pronunciation of the Chinese character “蟲” (“bug” or “worm”). Add “i” at the end and “chungi” (충이) becomes a suffix used in the online realm to describe people who, as a group, create havoc and bug others through comments or posts. This term can also be used to refer an individual from that group.
Backed by the country’s technological development, Koreans have created a massive online subculture. One of the well-known Internet forum/imageboard website is DC Inside (think of the United States’ 4chan if you are familiar with these stuff). Dozens of imageboards called “galleries” are segregated by various themes, and imageboards of each ballclub had been created for baseball fans.
Though the team’s recent demise have diminished their activities, SK Wyverns fans have been pretty notorious online bashing fans from other ballclubs and sabotaging their “galleries”. Thus, the SK Wyverns’ Gallery is referred by others as “Swak-gal”, and those who dwell there as “Swakchungi” (pronounced “SWOCK-CHOONG-EE”).
“So, where is this ‘Yongteurim Madang’?”
“Yongteurim Madang” (용트림 마당, “Dragon’s Belch Ground”) was a message board on the SK Wyverns’ official website. Back then, it was the only channel for the front office to communicate with the fans. (Now they run more information-based social media accounts.)
It vanished a few days before the club fired then manager Kim Sung-keun on August 11, 2011. Thus, became the website you see now: the only information-based website among other ballclubs.
“Big Brother Lotto breaks out.”
One of the frustrating things as a fan is watching a former player perform well after leaving your team.
“Big Brother Lotto” (로또 형님) refers to former SK Wyvern and current Changwon NC Dino, Lee Ho-jun (이호준). Lee began his career with the Haitai Tigers (now KIA Tigers), and joined the Wyverns through a trade that triggered a 13-year torture for Wyverns fans. Lee was the epitome of inconsistency and producing when it does not matter. Fans have compared his run production (Lee batted clean-up most of the time) to a lottery. They even developed a game when Lee is up at bat in a clutch situation: 1st-place prize for a home run, 2nd-place for a base hit, 3rd-place for a sacrifice, 4th-place for a single out, and nothing for any form of double-play.
When the veteran left the team via free agency after the 2012 season, fans were relieved to have their most hated player leave the team. However, Lee has shown no signs of his old reputation with the Dinos, which has left Wyverns fans flabberghasted.
“Lifetime contract for the manager.”
The manager here refers to their current manager, Lee Man-soo (이만수). Lee was hired as the Wyverns’ bench coach the same year the Wyverns hired Kim Sung-keun to take the helm. Both clearly had a different philosophy towards the game. Unlike the aforementioned Kim, Lee is an emotional person, who spent seven years (2000-2006) as the bullpen catcher for the Chicago White Sox. He prefers independence over discipline, and the American way of managing players. While most of the fans and players worshipped Kim (And, they still do. He is dubbed as the “God of Baseball”), they viewed Lee as someone disrespectful to Kim.
When Lee replaced Kim as the Wyverns interim manager during the 2011 season, fans and players took that hatred to another level. Lee did take the club to two more Korean Series appearances, but when things started to fall apart last season they openly expressed their disgust. Despite all this, there is very little sign of Lee’s departure, which has fans believing that the front office was in favor of Lee from the beginning.
Now, whether the reason for this issue strictly lies on Lee’s inability to manage, or on the fans and players deciding not to tolerate anyone not named “Kim Sung-keun” is under some debate. But, you will definitely hear a reaction from a Wyverns fan when you tell them that their manager is under a lifetime contract.
- Business Culture – About SK, SK Group.
- Breaking Ball, Wall Street Journal, Jul. 16, 2014.
- 지금 야구 보다 화내는 자, 모두 유죄!, Daehaknaeil (issue no. 691), Apr. 22, 2014.
- “만수야 우린 네가 정말 싫다”, The Aju Business, Sep. 4, 2011.
- 뿔난 SK팬들, ‘경호원과 마찰’, Osen, Aug. 23, 2011.
- SK와이번스는 팬과 소통할 의지가 있는가?, EduYonhap.com, Aug. 8, 2011.
- 구단 사장이 비룡 야구 폄훼?, Kyeongin.com, Nov. 6, 2009.