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Bong Korea's guy to take down Japan

Fifth meeting between two clubs in '09 Classic will determine title

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LOS ANGELES -- Simply put, Korea left-hander Jung Keun Bong has been dominant against Japan in the World Baseball Classic.

Bong has already twice defeated Japan, while posting a 0.84 ERA in 10 2/3 innings along with three strikeouts and just six hits allowed.

He will again get a chance to defeat Japan, but with much more on the line in the 2009 World Baseball Classic final on Monday at 9 p.m. ET at Dodger Stadium. Korea will be the home team in Monday's final after it won a coin toss following Sunday night's semifinal between Japan and USA.

It will be the fifth meeting between the two teams as they both won two games against each other in this year's Classic.

"Korean players and Japanese players are excellent," said Shin-Soo Choo, who also plays for the Indians. "There is little difference between the two."

And while Choo is the only player on Korea's roster currently in the Major Leagues, Bong spent three years in the big leagues and pitched at Dodger Stadium in relief once, allowing no runs in 2 2/3 innings while picking up the win for the Braves.

But that was five years ago, and he struggled in the United States, posting a 5.17 ERA in 48 games with the Braves and Reds.

Bong returned to his native Korea in 2006, when he signed a deal with the LG Twins and had a solid season in 2008, going 11-8 with a 2.66 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 186 1/3 innings.

His success in the Korean Baseball Organization has carried over into the World Baseball Classic, where he is 2-0 with a 0.66 ERA in 13 2/3 innings for Korea.

Bong's undoubtedly been the ace of his staff, but he's also had plenty of help, as Korea has been solid in all facets of the game.

The team has scored a tournament-high 50 runs while also showing discipline on defense and on the basepaths.

Instead of Yu Darvish, Korea will face Hisashi Iwakuma in the final on Monday.

Although it's a rivalry that parallels the one in America between the Yankees and Red Sox, Korea manager In-Sik Kim said on Saturday that he didn't care if he faced the United States or Japan in the final.

"In baseball, it does not matter who you face, either the U.S. or Japan," Kim said through a translator. "Either team is fine. We came all the way here, and this is what we hope -- that we play the best team out of the two teams."

Rhett Bollinger is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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