By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, June 1 (Yonhap) -- Three members of the South Korean national baseball team at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) apologized Thursday for going out for drinks during the March tournament in Tokyo, saying they will fully cooperate with the upcoming investigation by the professional league.
SSG Landers pitcher Kim Kwang-hyun, NC Dinos pitcher Lee Yong-chan and Doosan Bears pitcher Jeong Cheol-won apologized for their actions prior to their respective Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) games Thursday.
The three players had earlier confirmed a media report that claimed they had gone out for drinks during the preliminary round of the tournament in Tokyo.
The report, citing unnamed sources, said the trio had drinks on March 8, the eve of South Korea's first game against Australia and again on March 9, the day before South Korea faced Japan.
The media report sparked outrage among baseball fans -- not so much because the players had drinks per se, but because they apparently did so before both of the team's most important games of the tournament.
South Korea lost both of those games and was eliminated from the opening round for the third consecutive WBC.
The players, while admitting to having drinks, disputed the reported dates of those occasions. They said they first had drinks on March 7 and again after the Japan game on March 10, though not always together.
Lee said he met a friend at a Korean restaurant in Tokyo on March 7. Jeong said he and Kim had some snacks and drinks after the Japan game.
They also denied the report's claim that they had been accompanied by female waitresses.
Kim, the senior member of the group at 34, was removed from the active roster. He had been scheduled to start Thursday's game against the Dinos.
"I'd like to apologize to all fans of baseball and my fellow players from the bottom of my heart for acting so foolishly during the national team tournament," Kim read from a statement. "I regret not exercising my self-control as a veteran of the team."
Lee's and Jeong's apologies mostly struck the same note, saying they regretted going out for drinks while playing for the country.
The KBO doesn't have grounds for penalizing players for drinking while with the national team. However, the league does require national team players to "act with honor and dignity" while representing the country.
The KBO has said it will try to determine whether Kim, Lee and Jeong had violated rules guiding national team members.