- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 6' 3", Weight 175-215 lb.
- High School Shinil High School
- Debut April 23, 2002
- Final Game June 20, 2004
- Born July 15, 1980 in Seoul South Korea
Jung-keun Bong pitched for 9 years in Organized Baseball, including 3 years in the majors, before joining the Korea Baseball Organization. Bong also pitched for South Korea in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics.
Bong signed a 1.7 million (won? or dollars?) deal with the Atlanta Braves while he was still in high school. He had dazzled in the 1997 World Junior Championship, hitting .560/?/1.200 with 13 runs and 11 RBI in 25 AB. He beat out players like Austin Kearns, Chien-Ming Wang and Hee-Seop Choi for the tournament MVP award. He was named to the Tournament All-Star team as an outfielder.
Joining the Braves, Bong became a pitcher. He had a good debut in 1998 with the GCL Braves, posting a 1-1, 1.49 record with 31 hits allowed, 14 walks and 56 strikeouts in 48 1/3 IP. He was second in the Gulf Coast League in ERA, trailing Wes Anderson, and was rated the GCL's #3 prospect by Baseball America.
In 1999, Bong went 6-5 with one save and a 3.98 ERA for the Macon Braves. Jung split 2000 between Macon (7-7, 4.23) and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (3-1, 2.18). With Myrtle Beach in 2001, Bong had arguably his best year in a full-season league in the USA. He won 13, lost 9 and had a 3.00 ERA, striking out 145 while walking 47 in 168 IP. Opponents hit .244 against him. Baseball America ranked him as the 15th-best prospect in the Carolina League.
Bong spent most of 2002 with the Greenville Braves, going 7-8 with 2 saves and a 3.26 ERA. He struck out 107 in 122 IP and was 6th in the Southern League in ERA. Baseball America rated him the #17 prospect in the SL, between Joe Valentine and Wily Mo Pena. Jung got one start for Atlanta in April, allowing 5 runs and 8 hits in six innings of work. He was one of the ten youngest players to appear in the 2002 NL.
Jung pitched briefly for the Richmond Braves (1-2, 5.56, 15 K in 11 1/3 IP) in 2003 but spent the majority of the year as Atlanta's most-used left-handed relief pitcher. He had a 6-2 record, one save and a 5.05 ERA for the 2003 Braves, plagued by poor control (31 BB in 57 IP).
On March 26, 2004, Bong was traded with Bubba Nelson to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Chris Reitsma. He struggled for the Louisville Bats, going 8-8 with a 5.82 ERA and .313 opponent batting average, back in the starting role after his one year in the bullpen. He also made a brief rehab appearance with the GCL Reds. He made his final three MLB appearances, going 1-1 with a 4.70 ERA for the 2004 Reds, with a WHIP of 1.76. Overall, he had a 7-4, 5.17 record in the major leagues.
Injuries plagued the young left-hander in 2005 and he only pitched one game, allowing three runs (two earned) in four innings for the Sarasota Reds. In the 2006 World Baseball Classic, Bong pitched 2 2/3 hitless innings in 3 games for the surprising South Korean team, but he did walk two. Bong appeared in four games for the Chattanooga Lookouts (1-1, 5.09) before he was released by Cincinnati with a composite 47-42 record in the US minors and 54-46 in Organized Baseball.
On May 18, 2006, Bong signed a 1.35-billion won ($1.4 million USD) deal with the KBO's LG Twins. He made his KBO debut almost a year later on April 11, 2007, allowing 2 runs in 6 1/3 IP. He was 6-7 with a 5.32 ERA in his first year back in Korea.
Bong was the second-worst hurler for South Korea in the 2008 Olympics, doing better only than Ki-joo Han. In 8 2/3 innings, he had a 8.31 ERA, allowing 14 hits, 4 walks, a hit batsman and a wild pitch. He was posted a 8-0 lead against the Taiwan national team but failed to win the game and was trounced by Team USA as well.
He did better in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, being chosen to start the championship game against the Japanese national team. He had beaten Japan twice previously, outdueling Hisashi Iwakuma 1-0 and beating Yu Darvish 4-1. In the finale, he allowed one run in five innings and left with a 1-1 tie as Hyun-wook Jong relieved. Bong would get a no-decision as South Korea lost 5-3 in extra innings. Overall, Bong was 2-0 with a 0.51 ERA in the event and joined Iwakuma and Daisuke Matsuzaka on the All-Tournament pitching staff. Bong tied Darvish, Félix Hernández, Javier Vázquez, Norge Vera and Suk-min Yoon for second in the Classic in wins, one behind Matsuzaka. He was second to Iwakuma with 17 2/3 IP.