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KBO: Kia Tigers Name Lee Bum-ho Manager, Replacing Kim Jong-kook

 Leif Skodnick  |    Feb 14th, 2024 10:24am EST

Lee Bum-Ho, shown here during the first round of the 2006 World Baseball Classic at the Tokyo Dome, is the new manager for the Kia Tigers in South Korea. (Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images)

By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network

On Tuesday, the Kia Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization announced that hitting coach Lee Bum-ho was promoted to be the team’s new manager.

Lee replaces Kim Jong-kook, who was fired by the team in January and currently faces a criminal investigation for bribery.  

Lee, 42, played 19 seasons in the KBO with the Hanwha Eagles and Kia Tigers and one season in Nippon Professional Baseball with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in 2010. His last appearance in a professional baseball game was 2019 for the Tigers. Lee will be the youngest manager in the KBO this year after signing a two-year deal worth 900 million won, or approximately $677,040 United States dollars.  

Over the last three years, Lee has held three positions with the Tigers. He was a scout for the club in 2020, a minor league manager in 2021, and the team’s hitting coach in 2022.  

He hit .270 with a .845 OPS and 343 home runs in his 20-year playing career from 2000-19 and was a two-time KBO League Golden Glove Award winner at third base in 2005 and 2006.  

“I am a bit worried about taking over as manager at such a difficult moment for the club, but I will try to take it step by step to build this team,” Lee said in a statement released by the Tigers. “I want to put players in a position where they can play baseball the way they want to play. I understand what the club and our fans expect of me. I want to push the club to great heights during my time here.”  

The Tigers finished the 2023 regular season with a 73-69-2 record, just one game back of the fifth-place and second-wild card Doosan Bears. After last season’s disappointing finish, it has been six seasons since their last Korean Series championship in 2017. However, Tigers general manager Shim Jae-hak feels that Lee is the correct man to help them win their next title.  

“Since I became the general manager, I’ve spoken with our coaches on many occasions to discuss the direction of our ball club. And Lee Bum-ho always had a lot of great ideas,” Shim told Yonhap News Agency. “And he had an excellent presentation at the team strategy seminar last month with our CEO in attendance. I think he must have earned extra points during this process because of that.”  

In addition to Shim, the Tigers released a statement regarding Lee’s promotion. The level of excitement the organization feels for the new manager is clear.  

“As our former minor league manager and first-team hitting coach, Lee Bum-ho has a deep understanding of our organization,” the Tigers said in a statement. “We felt he was the perfect person to pull the team together at this juncture, given his leadership and excellent communication skills.”  

According to the Yonhap News Agency, Lee has been in Canberra, Australia, the Tigers’ spring training site, since the beginning of February preparing for the season.  

The Tigers’ first game of the 2024 regular season is Saturday, March 23, at 5 a.m. EST against the Kiwoom Heroes. The game will occur at Gwangju-KIA Champions Field, the home field of the Kia Tigers since 2014.