Recent disputes within the Badminton World Federation (BWF) have jeopardized the future of the world's fastest racket sport. During the World Championships in Kuala Lumpur in June, BWF President Kang Hyung-joon made a statement regarding the organization's overall performance and a vote of no confidence made against him at a council meeting in Glasgow in March. In an interview with The Jakarta Post's Primastuti Handayani at his office in Seoul recently, Kang expressed his concern about the future of badminton. Below are excerpts from their discussion.
Question: There was a vote of no confidence made against you earlier this year and you said BWF Executive Deputy President Punch Gunalan was behind it. Why do you think this?
Answer: I don't really want to discuss it because we all have different opinions. It is a purely political issue. It all began with the Chief Operating Officer (COO) problem, which is a compulsory position in the BWF Constitution. But we didn't have one. That's why I decided to appoint one, but he was later dismissed. It was a procedural error.
After the 2005 Anaheim world championships, we didn't have a COO. It was a violation against the Constitution. Then they appointed someone to sit in as the Executive Deputy President, but that position does not exist in the Constitution.
Do you think you were victimized in this dispute?
I'm not sure. I was appointed by members of the council. I sacrificed my (position) to (make) wrong things … right.
As BWF president, you should have had executive power. Why didn't you in this situation?
Within an organization, power should be divided equally among committees and bodies. The expertise of each individual should also be distributed equally.
But in the case of the BWF, one person holds too much power. He is the executive deputy president and now COO and he's also chairman of three committees (chairman of the Continental Confederations Committee, chairman of the Marketing and Research Committee and co-chairman of the Training Centers and Development Committee).
That is not right. With this situation, the BWF can't be a good organization. I tried to make it a responsible and transparent organization because that is what we needed. We need to have one voice in the organization, but it shouldn't (just) be one man's voice. It should be a unified and coordinated opinion … to help develop and improve the organization.
Do you know who was on your side and who was not in the dispute?
I try not to classify these groups. But after all that has happened, I can see who is heading (in one direction) and who is heading in the other (direction).
Many have questioned why the BWF is run by badminton's minor countries. Do you think this is good for the game?
We should have equal opportunities. Each tournament in badminton is supposed to be a festival for both strong and weak teams in the world. However, some people used these minor countries to launch a proxy against me during the Sudirman Cup in Glasgow.
There have been rumors badminton might be dropped from the Olympics after 2012. Do you think the current dispute within the BWF could affect the future of badminton at the Olympics?
I think it (could) happen in the future. What we need to do is be active … to prevent it. I met with Jacques Rogge (the president of the International Olympics Committee) recently to talk about this.
In Southeast Asia, two billion (people) see badminton as a chance to win Olympics gold. Indonesia is one example. Until 2016 we may still be in the Olympics, but if the situation continues to go on like this, we may be dropped.
We need to (develop) a strategy and plans that include revamping the organization. It will cause a lot of pain but that needs to be done.
We have to be open (in regards to) this issue instead of trying to cover it up. If we (are open), maybe the IOC and other sports organizations related to badminton will (offer) some advise and help solve our problems.
Do you have a timeframe in which you hope to improve the situation at the BWF?
We have been wasting a lot of time addressing this (question). We must grow and to do so we need (to develop) certain programs. I (have) tried to develop a lot of programs that involve minor countries.
We also have the Super Series. After 2012, we always said we would be the world's number one racket sport. But to achieve this we must have a good program, (such as) tennis does.
Starting this year we will have the US$1 million World Cup, the youth development program and a program for the disabled.
How have you viewed the development of badminton since you became BWF president?
It has been two years now. I value human relationships and there must be equal power to make us a creative organization. But this is not happening now. We need to support the local peculiarities of each country.
We need to make ourselves open so we can manage and control (the organization). They will see what we are doing. And I will (make) the organization better (through) development and improvements.
Elections for the BWF presidency will take place during the next two years. Are you going to run again for the presidency?
I consider myself (to be) a servant. We are offering our best services for badminton. If BWF country members think I am doing a good job, then I can be reelected
With all the disputes during your two-year tenure, do you have any regrets?
I have managed a company for more than 30 years. I also chose to be the president upon my appointment by council members. If I regret things, I will be responsible (for) my decisions. I make a lot of choices everyday so if I regretted everything I would not be able to take care of the organization.