‘Judo Hero’ Ha Hyung-joo Appreciated by the National Sports Foundation
“We will take the lead in ensuring people’s right to sports”
Increasing sports facilities so that all people can enjoy sports
Important to support the sports industry through funding programs
Gain trust through transparent operation of competitions and events

“I hope to help create conditions where people can always improve their health through physical education, which is called ‘guaranteeing people’s right to sports.’ I will take the lead for a world where the value of physical education is taken for granted. I also want to show that the foundation of a decent country is sports.”

Dong-A University professor Ha Hyung-joo (61), who was appointed as the permanent auditor of the Seoul Olympic Commemorative National Sports Promotion Corporation on August 1, is a “national hero” who made a name for himself as a gold medalist in the men’s judo half-heavyweight (under 95 kg) at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

“Based on my field experience as an athlete and educator, I will support the will of Chairman Choi Hyun-jae, who has been leading the KPA, and furthermore, I will raise the status of the KPA through transparent institutional management,” said Ha in an exclusive interview with MK Sports on Tuesday.

Ha, who prides himself on being an ‘athlete to the bone,’ added, “During my tenure, I would like to increase the number of sports facilities across the country so that more people can enjoy sports. Here is a one-on-one interview with Mr. Ha.

Use your experience as an athlete and educator to raise the profile of the organization

  • First of all, congratulations on your appointment as the permanent auditor of the Korea Sports Authority. Please give us your impressions.

“Since joining Dong-A University as a professor in 1988, I have been working on postgraduate education for more than 35 years, but now I will do my best to revive my experience as a university professor, a member of the Busan City Council (with the Democratic Liberty Party in 1995), and a mediator at the Busan District Court, so that the Korea Sports Authority can become a trustworthy organization that contributes to the improvement of people’s health.”

Ha, who was on sabbatical in September 2021, led the declaration of support for Yoon Seok-yeol’s candidacy ahead of the 20th presidential election on October 18 of that year along with 300 athletes from Busan, and was the only member of the 184-member Special Committee for Regional Balanced Development of the Presidential Transition Committee to participate in April 2022 when Yoon was elected.

  • Although he has only been in office for a short time, as an executive of the NPS, what views does he have on the current projects of the NPS?

“As far as I can tell, there are four projects, including ▲ fundraising projects, ▲ sports welfare support projects, ▲ sports industry support projects, and ▲ Olympic legacy projects, and none of them can be neglected. In particular, the National Sports Promotion Fund, which raises about KRW 2 trillion annually from kyungryun, kyungjeong, and sports betting, serves as the ‘umbilical cord’ of Korean sports, but as it is a legalized gambling industry, we believe that we must gain the trust of the people through integrity and transparent business operations. Businesses such as sports welfare support projects such as sports course vouchers, support for financial products for sports industry growth, and maintenance of Seoul Olympic legacies such as Olympic Park are also very important.”

Strengthening internal controls to support the right financial products

  • Recently, some financial institutions, such as Kyungnam Bank, have experienced unsavory incidents such as embezzlement of large sums of money by internal employees. The Korea Sports Authority, which provides financial products to sports industry companies, also believes that internal control is important.

“Yes, it is. The Korea Sports Authority has an internal control management system led by the Planning and Coordination Office with the cooperation of the Audit Office. There are three stages of the internal control process, with the first stage being the department’s own training on the importance of internal control, and the second stage being the management planning team, which is a dedicated department, managing internal control-related indicators across business units. The third and final step is the annual Control Self-Assessment (CSA) by the audit team to reflect and support departmental internal control indicators and related issues.”

Most memorable Olympic win was beating Japan in the weightlifting competition

  • As the second Olympic gold medalist to hold a key position in a national organization after weightlifter Jang Jang-ran (39), the conversation turns to her athletic career.

“At the 1981 Asian Judo Championships in Jakarta, I lost to a Japanese athlete in my weight class, 95 kg and under, and settled for a silver medal, but I won the unlimited weight class, where there is no weight limit, by beating the Japanese athlete, and I can’t forget that Korean judo won the unlimited weight class on the Asian stage for the first time. I was 19 years old at the time and was satisfied with winning a silver medal in my weight class, but then coach Seo Jae-gyun slapped me on the cheek in my hostel and said, ‘Wake up. Your weight class is 95 kilograms or less, but you should try the unlimited weight class, where there are athletes over 100 kilograms,’ so I gritted my teeth, went out and fought, and won the gold medal. They’ve all passed away, but I have a lot of gratitude for Song Hak-joon and Seo Jae-gyun, the coaches who led that team.”

In the 1980s, Korean judo was still a sport that was intimidated by Japanese judo, so when Ha Hyung-joo defeated a Japanese unlimited and was named Most Valuable Player (MVP), the Korean media was abuzz.

As a judo reporter at the time, I covered the Korean team’s return to Gimpo Airport, and many judoka participated in the welcoming ceremony at the airport, including Seok Jin-kyung 9th Dan (passed away in 1990), the “giant” of Korean judo at the time, and Ha, Hyung-joo, and I took a commemorative photo.

Defeat at the 1985 World Championships by Japan…and a year later, revenge

  • Since then, there have been mixed results at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, the 1985 World Judo Championships in Seoul, and the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

“That’s right. The LA Olympics, where I carried the Korean flag at the opening ceremony as the flag bearer for the Korean team, was the first Olympics where I was fearless. I beat Masato Mihara of Japan in the quarterfinals by half and two (bouts) to win the title, then beat Gunther Neuer of West Germany, the 1980 Olympic champion, in the quarterfinals and Douglas Vieira of Brazil in the final. But at the 1985 World Championships at Jamsil Gymnasium, I made light work of Hitoshi Sugai of Japan in the final, conceding a bout with a missed shot. Fortunately, in the 1986 Asian Games final at Gymnasium 88, he went all in on Sugai, avenging his loss the year before. However, at the Seoul Olympics at Jangchung Gymnasium, he was eliminated by Roberto Van de Valle (BEL), whom he had underestimated in the first round, with a transverse takedown. Pride was the culprit. The Seoul Olympics was even more disappointing because Aurelio Miguez (BRA), who had lost to me in the final of the 1985 Kobe Universiade, won.”메이저놀이터

A fiery lifter, Ha is considered a legend in South Korean sports, having co-lighted the torch at the opening ceremony of the 2002 Asian Games in Busan with North Korean women’s taekwondo Olympic gold medalist Kye Soon Hee, 45, and carried the Korean flag at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang with five others, including marathon runner Hwang Young Jo.

He had one son and one daughter, all of whom got married in the same year, as well as grandchildren. A devout Catholic, his baptismal name was Michael.

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