Former Lotte Giants player Seo Jun-won, who was tried for violating the Sexual Protection of Children and Adolescents Act, has been sentenced to “probation” instead of “jail time,” avoiding jail time. Nevertheless, his return to the KBO will not be easy.안전놀이터
On the 13th, the Busan District Court Criminal Division 5 (Chief Judge Jang Jong-seok) held a sentencing hearing at the Busan District Court in Yeonje-gu, Busan, and sentenced Seo to three years in prison and five years of probation for violating the Sexual Protection of Children and Adolescents Act (producing and distributing sexual exploitation materials).
As a student at Gyeongnam High School, Seo Jun-won was a highly touted prospect who threw a fastball in excess of 150 kilometers despite being a sidearm pitcher. At the time, Seo Jun-won was considered so talented that he attracted the attention of major league scouts and even won the “High School Choi Dong-won Award”. He was selected by the Lotte Giants with the first overall pick in the 2019 KBO Draft.
In his rookie season, Seo bounced between the starting rotation and the bullpen to find the “right fit,” gaining experience in 33 games (16 starts) with a 4-11 record and a 5.47 ERA, and the following year, he began to make a name for himself in 31 games (20 starts) with a 7-6 record and a 5.18 ERA. However, as expected, Seo’s progress was slow. This was due to the fact that he neglected to take care of his body, gaining weight rapidly after entering the professional ranks.
He had his worst season in 2021, going 1-3 with a 7.33 ERA in 26 games (8 starts). After getting married and having a family to support, Seo vowed to make changes, including letting go of his desire for control, and rebounded with a 3-3 record and a 4.80 ERA in 33 games (4 starts) last year. This year, he lost weight in spring training to prepare for the season.
However, before the start of the regular season, a “shocking” news broke that caused waves not only in the baseball world but also in society. Jun-won Seo had committed a sex crime against a minor. In August of last year, Seo lured a minor he met through social media into sending him photos of herself in exchange for pocket money. Seo had already been under police investigation for sex crimes against minors since last year, but he claimed to the Lotte team that he had been “scammed” in a personal matter.
But he couldn’t cover the sky with his palms. It was revealed that Seo had been indicted for producing sexual exploitation of minors, and Lotte didn’t hesitate to release him after the news broke. Lotte and CEO Lee Kang-hoon issued an apology and bowed their heads. The Choi Dong-won Memorial Foundation, which had awarded him the “High School Choi Dong-won Award,” also decided to revoke the award.
What was even more shocking was Seo’s ‘lie’. In his first court appearance, Seo claimed that he was unaware that his opponent was a minor. However, this was not true. At the June 14 hearing, he reversed his position and admitted that he was aware that his opponent was a minor. Reports at the time revealed that he had received 60 sexual messages and seven photos with the victim. His lame excuse was that he was “trying to relieve the stress of strict life control and parenting within the club in a crooked way.”
In response, the prosecution asked for six years in prison, citing Seo’s lack of remorse at the last hearing on Aug. 23, when he lied and said he didn’t know the victim was a minor. However, on August 13, the court sentenced Seo to three years in prison and five years of probation, stating that “the crime was serious in terms of the method, the target, and the extent of the damage,” but “taking into account that the crime lasted only one day, that he did not appear to have distributed sexual exploitation materials, that he paid a settlement to the victim’s mother, and that he was a first-time offender.” While avoiding prison, Seo was sentenced to three years in prison and five years of probation.
In March, the KBO imposed a suspension on Seo, stating, “If the facts are confirmed by the judicial system in the future, we will hold a penalty committee to deliberate on whether to lift the suspension and the final sanction.” Once the KBO confirmed the outcome of the first trial, they appealed to the Supreme Court. After confirming the outcome of the first trial, the KBO will hold a punishment committee after observing the situation, considering that the trial could be prolonged due to appeals. At this point, it is likely that the prosecution will appeal.
If the KBO does not hand down a punishment such as a permanent ban or disqualification, the player could theoretically return to play in Korea. However, it’s not impossible to imagine a more severe punishment. A KBO official said, “It’s important to know what offense he committed and then received probation. Seo Jun-won’s offense is not a good one,” he said, adding, “Everything will be decided by the committee after the punishment committee meets.”
Even if the KBO doesn’t have a strong disciplinary policy, it’s not easy to continue playing. Not many teams can handle the fallout from signing Seo Jun-won. It’s unlikely that any team would be willing to take a chance on a player who has committed such a heinous crime. Given the circumstances, it’s likely that he will be banned from baseball for now.
When asked about his future plans after the trial, Seo Jun-won said, “I will make plans as I go along, but I will fulfill my community service hours as soon as the verdict comes out. That’s all I can think about right now,” he said, adding, “I’m going to think about it a little bit more, and I’m going to live a really straight and reflective life so that I don’t do something like this again.”