Over 100 Korean and Mongolian children came together to play baseball for a week from August 9 to 15 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, in a training camp organized by the Salvation Army Korea. The camp consisted of three teams from South Korea and three teams from Mongolia.
"Mongolia is such a barren land for baseball," said Major Kyu-Han Kim, the former development ministries secretary of Salvation Army Korea. Mongolia doesn't have a baseball field nor a professional team, he added, though there is a team of amateur baseball players.
As such, Salvation Army Korea developed a children's baseball team three years ago called the Ulaan Tigers, and after having seen positive results, the mayor of Zuun Mud asked for a children's baseball team in that city as well. The teams are sponsored by the Kia Tigers, a professional baseball team in South Korea.
Kim says having this baseball camp with the Korean and Mongolian children helps in forming relationships cross culturally.
"It's awkward between the kids when they first meet, but the language and culture barriers come down very soon," he explained. "They'd joke around and play with each other using body gestures, and we can see that a sense of family and friendship forms as they play baseball together in the field."
Moreover, the Salvation Army decided to start this sponsorship program to provide care to neglected and isolated children in Mongolia, and to help in their physical development.
"The sponsorship program for the Mongolian children's baseball teams ... is not just support for baseball itself, but for the children who are desperately in need of care, socially and physically -- to establish a healthy physical condition, healthy social skills, and a sense of cooperation," Kim explained. "Through baseball, children can find opportunity, dreams, and hope, which will then empower them to plan for their future."
The Korean ambassador in Mongolia, the General Secretary of Mongolia's Olympic Committee, and the Director of Health and Sports in Mongolia were also present, and they "promised their continuous support for development of baseball in Mongolia," according to a statement by the Salvation Army Korea.