Han Sangkook (1936 – 2020)
Korea Republic’s Han Sangkook passed away on Friday 20th March; he was 83 years old.
A university education in the United States, he was 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.
Gaining the confidence of all, in 1988 he became Vice President of the Asian Table Tennis Union; a position that was appreciated by all, none more so than by Cai Zhenhua, a long-time friend and President of the Asian Table Tennis Union.
He was quick to send his condolences on behalf of the Executive Board members of ATTU and was deeply saddened by the news as was Ryu Seungmin, the Athens 2004 Olympic Games gold medallist and now President of the Korea Table Tennis Association.
“Mr Han was a respected figure within the Korean Table Tennis community”, said Ryu Seungmin. “He contributed enormously to the development of the sport in Korea. On behalf of the entire table tennis family in Korea, I express my deepest condolences.”
Later in 1995 Han Sangkook accepted the position of Chair of the ITTF Standing Orders Committee, before at the 2000 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.
True to his character, he fulfilled the position with great efficiency, a fact appreciated by Adham Sharara, ITTF President at the time who had met Han Sangkook for the first time in 1977 at the Canadian Open in Montreal.
“The Korean girls won every event, they were all students at his private school, which was established by his grandfather” reflected Adham Sharara. “He spoke perfect English, soft spoken with a brilliant mind. He was my mentor in all matters related to finance, as well as my advisor during and after his tenure as ITTF Vice President.”
Thoroughly reliable and dependable, a most well-respected official, calm, his advice and comments were highly valued. Responses were always carefully considered and delivered in a positive manner.
Moreover, in the table tennis arena, he was delighted when Korean players succeeded but equally he was quick to congratulate those from foreign shores; he recognised skill, talent and high quality sporting excellence. Win or lose, he enjoyed watching table tennis, for him the game was the most important factor.
Notably, he established very strong links with 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; together we also organised a great number of Korean players coming to come to Ängby for education, practice and matches,” reminisced Nils-Erik Sandberg. “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
However, it was as a human being where he set the greatest example for all. He welcomed his guests with open arms; the gentle caring smile endeared him to all, in his company you felt a special guest.
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.
Han Sangkook is sadly missed.