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PQQLK9
04-19-2005, 08:41 AM
Is there anything more interesting than computer games for children? For Lee Kang, a 14-year-old professional billiards player, the answer is yes.
"[The two activities] are not comparable. Playing pool is much more fun. Concentrating on playing, I forget about eating," Kang said.
He is not hesitant about preferring billiards to anything else, and he is a pool "genius." Kang looks like any other adolescent of 14, but he is already a professional, registered with the Korea Billiards Federation as a pocket ball player. To turn pro, one needs recommendations from five pro players.
There are 50 pro billiards players in Korea. Kang became a pro at the end of last year, the youngest one in the country.
The importance of early education is applicable here, too. Kang was exposed to billiards when he was only six. His father Lee Man-jun, 47, who owns an electronics store, bought a pool hall at that time, and his mother, Jo Sun-nam, 42, ran the business during the day. Kang and his elder brother happened to start playing with the balls.
He continued to play with the balls until he got his hands on the cues when he was in his fourth year of primary school. First, he imitated his cousins. After playing with the balls for a long time and perhaps learning the basics, he soon exhibited an exceptional talent in actual billiards. In only six months, he was able to score 120 points in the game of four balls. The progress was very quick, even for an adult.
Kang's father discovered his talent and took him to a professional billiards school. Here, Kang met former national billiard player Kim Hong-gyun, 38.
"I was surprised that he mastered the basics at such a young age," said Mr. Kim, who has taught Kang for the last three years.
In the meantime, Kang's score rose to 500 points and he began playing pocket ball. He was at the same level as his teacher.
During the school season, he trains for more than five hours a day, and there is not much time left for studying. He just does homework. His grades put him in the middle of his class. But Kang has something he is good at and has a purpose, so he is proud.
"I am happy to do what I am good at and want to do it for life," Kang said. "Watch me. I will be the world champion."


by Chung Jeh-won, Choi Min-woo, Namkoong Wook <jbiz91@joongang.co.kr>

web page (http://joongangdaily.joins.com/200504/19/200504192153213879900091009101.html)