SMT You participated in Beijing Asian Games in 1990 when Softball became an official sports for the first time. It was the first game on the international stage, and what does that mean to you?
JEON It makes me standing here now. In Korea, softball has become popular lately. At that time, a lot of countries already have competed in various international softball games, especially Japan, China and Taiwan in Asia. After softball adopted as an official event in the 11th Asian Games, Korea could participate on the first international stage finally. However, to compete with other countries which already have contended in lots of international games, we underwent an ordeal both mentally and physically. These experiences are a steppingstone for me even now. Through this stage, our team could get a chance to play abroad, and many spared no efforts for us. They made me who I am, and why I am really trying to improve softball.
SMT What inspired you to jump into softball?
JEON When I was a senior in high school, some of SMU’s students who majored in physical education came for publicizing at SMU. One of them was wearing a uniform with letters ‘SSBC,’ and she said it meant “Sookmyung Softball Circle.” Actually she was the captain of the circle, and after her explanation, I decided to enter the circle because I love to play ball.
SMT We heard SMU’s softball team was oerated like a club while you were in university. Could you explain that?
JEON In our campus, there was a small lawn called ‘Seo-Kwan lawn’ in the 80 and 90s. It was available for every student, and after o’clock when almost classes ended, our team always made there our own for training. Maybe, every student of that era remembers us. The official disciplines were three times a week, but we practiced every time between classes by twos and threes. The juniors lead a team, and when I became junior, professional coaches came and trained us systematically. At that time, they worked without pay, not like nowadays. One of them had been coach of the national team, and entered the Hall of Fame in the ISF (International Softball Federation). This circle life is a precious time I learned passion from seniors and skills from coaches.
SMT The Korea national softball team took third place in the 2008 World Games, and was first in the 2007 Universiad. These mean that the Korean softball team has been competitive internationally. How do you see the present level and position of our national team?
JEON I am amazed at how things have changed. Our team has developed by their uncountable effort, and makes us happy nowadays. However, our team lacks the international experience of other countries’ national teams. It is a clear weakness on the global stage, and we can know about it from the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games winners who had more than two or three times the international experience. In this point, we need to support our softball team to participate in more various domestic or international events. Also, nowadays softball became one event of the after-school sports clubs for energizing physical education in school. It shows that our softball team has improved, and can be a major sport in Korea someday.
SMT You are the first Korean female international referee. When did you start to have interest in becoming a referee, not a player?
JEON It was a promise to myself to be a referee after entering the doctor’s course in physical education in 1999. At that time, however, there were few softball games in Korea, so I couldn’t have a strong mind. Then one day, I heard there is no position to monitor one event longer than referees. I was impressed with the words, so I feel that I found the motive why I have to be referee.
SMT We heard you underwent lots of hardships to become and remain an international referee.
JEON There are already another 5 Korean ISF referees, but they are all men, and worked too long before to get advice. Fortunately, one senior boosted me up continuously, and gave me lots of knowledge which cannot be acquired easily as a player. With this encouragement, I flew to Athens with no definite plan, just carrying airfare. I could get a free ticket for all Athens Olympic softball games by sending an e-mail to the ISF referees’ chief, and I slept in the airport for 2 weeks. It was a test of my own will, and a first step for my challenge. After completing some tests and clinic programs in the ISF, I got an International Referee certificate by the following year in Canada. However, after becoming an international referee, I questioned myself about if I was fit for the title enough. For the first time, there were few materials from senior referees, so I couldn’t tell what the accurate standard was. Over time, I have tried to be a real qualified referee. So far, I have participated 4 times in international games and gone to 9 clinics at my own expense. Also, I have posted all of my experiences on my blog and shared it with colleagues. After all of these, I think that it is quite easy to get the name of it, but possessing a real aspect as a international referee is very difficult.
SMT Like any other sports events, it is kind of infrequent case that a female referee can be seen in a game. Which position do female referees have on sports fields nowadays?
JEON Actually female referees have quite good position than most people think. When watching women’s sports games, we can see some female referees. In Qatar Asian Games, two Korean and European female referees worked on the women’s hockey final. I think that advanced countries in sports tend to let referees take gendered games according to their sex. This means that whether the sport is advanced is decided by whether female referees exist in women’s games. However, female referees never have a mind to think that female referees have a right to monitor only women’s games. First of all, they have to be equipped with enough ability themselves. Nowadays, lots of female referees who have the capacity appear in many international stages. Moreover, they are receiving credit from official institutes.
SMT While you were working as a referee in an international game, is there any memorable feeling or episode?
JEON Above all, I realized that I am serving as a member of a sports diplomatic corps. Hence, I
feel responsibility not to be a person who gives bad images about Korean referees. Also, as a
referee, I have to see both bad and good sides of it in various situations, but all of these become lessons. I have a painful episode in the Qatar Asian Games. There was the first technical meeting, but I was late because I got lost and missed the bus. Although that situation was out of my control, this meeting was so important for referees that my mistakes couldn’t be accepted. The ISF chief of referees said that I lost the chance to participate in the games. At that time, I was not good at English, so I couldn’t say anything except, “Sorry I was late, I lost my way.” Through this experience, 2 years later I could do very well in the Guangzhou Asian Games. This episode is not limited to me, so I always share all about my stories with other referees.
SMT What was your object in your university life?
JEON My dream was to become a good professor. I felt more academic abilities needed, so after the master’s degree in SMU, I entered Korea graduate school for the doctor’s course. However, over 10 years as a referee, I didn’t put my entire efforts on physical education. Until now, I feel I am not ready to concentrate on studying. Anyway, I am studying in KNOU(Korea National Open University) as a sophomore, majoring in English. After this course, I can stand in front of Physical Education honestly. I don’t know if I have given up on the dream of becoming a professor, but I am sure these efforts appear anywhere.
SMT Do you have any advice for Sookmyungians who will jump into the sports field like you?
JEON I don’t want to limit my junior’s future in softball. There is one junior who has served as a leader for the last 10 years in a high school. She is Lee Hoojung ’91 and she has lots of scores; the longest and largest victory record in a national high school softball game. Also, a short time ago, Youn Sunae ’87, Kim Sumi ’92 and Lee Sanga ’95 who are high school or middle school softball coaches participated in our school’s sports club contest. Compared with any other university, only Sookmyungians are showing power of softball. Lots of students who major in physical education know about the flow of our softball club. I encourage many professors concern about it.
When I was a student, I remember we had to do everything by ourselves according to the character of women’s university. I mean that we necessarily had to be active because if there are things boys like much better, we should deal with it by ourselves. However, everything went great amazingly. This aspect really helps me in social life. Therefore, I am really proud of my SMU juniors who lead sports teams, because other universities act according to someone’s directions, but SMU doesn’t, they are very independent. I hope that you guys live actively with these experiences, and please aim to participate in contests managed by the Korea Softball Federation once a year. Just remember that spreading or folding your wings depend on your decision.
- Jeon Munsook
Physical Education ’86
Completed the master’s degree from SMU
and the doctor’s degree from Korea University
The first Korean female international softball referee