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19-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

By Sheri Cioroslan | Aug. 13, 2014, 8 a.m. (ET)

Day 19, August 13 - Korea’s Mr. Han Sang Kook is the Picture of “A True Gentleman”

Mr. Han Sang Kook is one of the most intelligent and trustworthy persons I have ever met. 

Han Sang Kook How did you become involved in the sport?

My grandfather founded the Seoul Girl’s Commercial High School in 1926, and our school has had a table tennis club since 1938. Miss Lee Elisa, who won the World TT Championships in 1973 in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, is from our school TT club. I became the school principal in 1974 and have served as the president of the Korea High and Middle School TT Federation since 1976.

I first met Mr. Adham Sharara in Montreal, Canada when I brought the Korean Junior Team to the Canadian Open TT Championships in Montreal, in 1977. Afterwards, Mr. Sharara, Mr. Tim Boggan of the U.S.A., Mr. Nils Sandberg of Sweden, and myself agreed to organize the Scandinavia Junior TT Championships. And the Championships were held in Stockholm for several years.

When and how did you get involved in the ITTF?

I served as Vice President in charge of Foreign Affairs, for the Korea TTA since 1979, and represented KTTA as a delegate to the ITTF BGM.

Subsequently, I served the ITTF as a member, Secretary, and Chairman of Standing Orders Committee, which has since been renamed the Nominations Committee.

I also served as a BoD member and Continental Vice President of the ITTF, representing Asia.

Then I served as Executive Vice President, Finance, of the ITTF.

And now, I am a member of the President’s Advisory Council. I am also an Honorary Member of the ITTF.

Since you became involved in the ITTF, what positive changes have you seen?

Previously, the ITTF had operated as a conservative somewhat simplistic organization with an annual budget of no more than USD 500,000.   

Since Mr. Adham Sharara became president of the ITTF, we have seen many positive changes. The annual budget has increased to more than 9 million Swiss Francs (over USD 10 million).  We have transparency and an outside audit procedure.  There are allocated development and education funds for Continental Associations.  There has also been a change in various playing system parameters in order to appeal to general spectators and TV broadcasters.  

President Sharara mentioned to me that the Peace and Sport Cup that was held in Doha, Qatar in November of 2011 was your idea.  Could you tell us about how you came up with the proposal and were your expectations met?

Actually, I only gave him an idea. As such, all the credit should go to Mr. Sharara for his wonderful and splendid work!!!!!

At first, the concept of a friendly TT match between South and North Korea in Seoul was discussed among the head of the sports department of the MBC TV of Korea and myself, on behalf of the KTTA. 

I proposed to Mr. Sharara this idea and asked for his help to accomplish this match. KTTA invited him to come to Seoul to discuss this sensitive matter. He gladly accepted and came to Seoul to discuss various methods to accomplish this goal. Subsequently, he traveled to Pyongyang, North Korea to discuss possible ways to organize this match between the two Koreas. With his diligent and hard work with DPR Korea, he was able to convince DPR Korea to participate in the match which was to be hosted by a third country with other national teams.

Then, Mr. Sharara visited Monaco to discuss the concept with Mr. Joël Bouzou, President of Peace and Sport.  President Sharara was able to get an agreement that Peace and Sport would organize the match along with the ITTF, and the event was named the Peace and Sport Cup.

Then, he visited Qatar TTA to discuss whether they would be willing to have the Peace and Sport Cup.  With his hard work, they agreed. 

Because of the splendid hard work of Mr. Sharara, the historical Peace and Sport Cup could be born and was held in Doha, Qatar in November of 2011 with 10 participating nations.  Even Mr. Wilfried LEMKE, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, attended and recognized the historical event.

Looking back at the fifteen years of Adham Sharara’s presidency, what do you consider his greatest contributions?

During the fifteen years of Adham Sharara’s presidency, I can tell that this period achieved the greatest progress and development of the ITTF and Table Tennis as a whole, ever!!!!!

Mr. Sharara has made so many great contributions to the ITTF, it is hard for me to list all the great contribution he has given to the ITTF!!!!!

Below I have enumerated some of his great contributions.  But most of all, I would like to acknowledge his devoted hard work and time for the development of the ITTF and our beloved sport of Table Tennis. Adham Sharara has devoted all of his life to the development of Table Tennis, which nobody can deny!!!

1)      His splendid work to build good relationships with the I.O.C. , ASOIF, and other international sports Federations,

2)      His strategy of marketing to enlarge the income to Millions of USD.  So, the yearly budget of ITTF has enlarged to more than Ten Million USD from some five hundred thousand USD. 

3)      His invitation to the independent audit company to audit the ITTF’s yearly financial status and to report with details and statistics to the AGM.

4)      Allocation of development funds to the Continental Associations.

5)      Allocation of funds for education programs to the Continental Associations

6)      Program to send coaches to countries in need of cadet and junior development.

7)      An increase in the membership to become tied for the largest international sports federation.

8)      Change in the playing system to attract TV and spectators.

9)      Change of the ball, table, and advertisement strategy around the playing area.

10)    Advanced racket control system and Doping tests.

11)    Reform of the Constitution, as well as governance and staff structure.

12)    Purchase of the Chateau in Renens, near Lausanne, Switzerland, for the establishment of the ITTF Headquarters and the ITTF Museum.

Thank you, Mr. Han.  President Sharara has included some special words of appreciation below.

I first met Mr. Han in Montreal during the 1977 Canadian Open at which I was the organizer. He attended with a group of young girls from his school, and I can still remember the last day after the finals when Mr. Han was taking pictures with his players. He lined up on the floor every trophy they won, which was actually ALL of the women's events’ first and second place trophies, and they took photos with their prizes. He was very proud and extremely happy with this result. On the men's side the event was dominated by the Yugoslavs, but Korea managed a bronze medal in the singles. 

The image of this very nice and proud man remains ingrained in my memory. When we met later in the ITTF, and when I got to know Mr. Han better, I discovered a modest, honest and generous man. I could immediately trust him and ask him for advice. In the period in which he was ITTF EVP of Finance, he gave me a lot of advice and introduced subtle ideas, basically putting the seed of the objective in my head. He never forced, never pushed, but always let me know his opinion in a gentle and fatherly manner. If you look in the dictionary for the meaning of the expression "A true gentleman", you will find the picture of Mr. Han. He is a man of his word, avoids confrontation and devotes his time to help others. 

I visited Mr. Han's school once in Seoul. I was extremely impressed by the system in this school. It is a private school for girls, and the strong feelings that I felt, walking around the school and meeting the teachers and the students, were mainly feelings of serenity, comfort, security and the highest levels of morality. The teachers and the students in this school are very lucky to have Mr. Han as their leader.

Mr. Han Sang Kook is one of the most intelligent and trustworthy persons I have ever met.

Thank you, President Sharara.