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South Korean trailblazer Park Chan-ho retires

By Narae Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - Former Major League Baseball All Star Park Chan-ho, who holds the record for the most wins by an Asian-born pitcher in the majors, announced his retirement on Friday and said it was time to give something back to the sport in South Korea.

The 39-year-old, who finished up his playing days with South Korea's Hanwha Eagles, won 124 MLB games in a career that included stints with the LA Dodgers, Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies.

The first South Korean to play in the majors, Park struggled to contain his emotions at a news conference in Seoul as he talked for more than an hour about his career, the 13 uniforms he wore over his 30 years in baseball displayed proudly in front of him.

"A kid from a tiny countryside Korean town ended up enjoying a long, illustrious career in Major League Baseball," said Park, who hails from the small town of Gongju, South Chungcheong province, about 130km south of the capital Seoul.

"I think I am the luckiest person ever in the history of Korean baseball."

Wearing a National League Championship ring and with his signature 'lucky' orange tie around his neck, Park said he decided to call time on his playing career after the 2012 season as he had achieved what he planned to do when he came home.

"After pitching at the Hanwha Eagles for the previous season, I now have specific ideas as to what I can contribute to advancing Korean baseball," said Park.

He added that he planned to go to the United States at the end of the year to improve his baseball administration and management skills.

"I also hope to have hands-on experience in America's commercialized baseball and strengthen the commercial aspect of Korean baseball."

Looking back on his career, he said baseball was like school to him.

"I learned many things I would otherwise never have learned through textbooks. It has also taught me how I can contribute to my country.

"Although I won't be pitching as a professional player any more I hope to be a bridge between baseball and the community, and I want young players to think how they can affect our society through baseball."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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