Han Sangkook, respected worldwide, remembered

Han Sangkook, a most caring human being (Photo: Rémy Gros)

by Ian Marshall, Editor

It is with great sadness that the death of Han Sangkook is announced; he passed away on Friday 20th March.

Born in 1936, he was 83 years old.

Over the years we have admired the speed and athleticism of players from the Republic of Korea; the modern day era continues that tradition. In a different way but equally important, Han Sangkook maintained the values of his country, the qualities of respect, good manners, astute administration and caring for his fellow man.

A university education in the United States, a teacher by profession at a private school, in 1976 he assumed his first role in officialdom, President of the Republic of Korea Student Association; four years later in 1980 he was elected Vice President of the Korea Table Tennis Association. Efforts most appreciated, in 1988 he became Vice President of the Asian Table Tennis Union, before in 1995 accepting the position of Chair of the ITTF Standing Orders Committee.

It was a position he held until 2000 when at the Annual General Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, he was appointed to the ITTF Executive Committee as Vice President (Finance), a role he fulfilled until retiring in 2005.

A most well-respected official, calm, his advice and comments valued; always carefully considered, delivered in a positive manner; there was never an unguarded spur of the moment response. However, most importantly it was as a human being where he set the greatest example for all; a fact Ryu Seungmin, Athens 2004 Olympic Games gold medallist and now President of the Korea Table Tennis Association, acknowledged.

He was a man of the very highest integrity; he enjoyed singing in his local church choir, being part of a community whether in the table tennis world or in a different sphere was to him important. He could contribute to the well-being of society.

Always, a most welcoming host, for him every visitor to his country for a table tennis tournament was a valued guest; my distinct memory is in 2005 when the ITTF World Tour Korea Open was staged in Pyeongchang. He drove some two hours to invite me to lunch. Simply that act summed up the character of Han Sangkook.

Wherever he visited, he was admired, friendships forged, his support most gratefully received, none more so than by Nils-Erik Sandberg, the founder of the Ängby Club in Sweden.

“Mr Han was an old friend from 1966; his national team took part in the first Swedish Junior Championships in Stockholm organised by our club. The Republic of Korea under Mr Han and the Ängby club had a close relationship from sport to business and politics. Together we also organised a great number of Korean players coming to come to Ängby for education, practice and matches. Notably players like Kim Taeksoo, Yoo Namkyu, Ahn Jaehyun as well as Hong Soonhwa and Hong Chaok all benefitted from their training sessions in Ängby Our Korea friendship, created with Mr Han as leader, we all remember in our hearts. They will stay forever.” Nils Sandberg

We echo the words of Nils Sandberg; our condolences, Han Sangkook is sadly missed.