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Korean top official wants to naturalize foreign athletes

(Reuters) - South Korea's athletics chief is open to naturalizing foreign athletes to lift marathon's standard in the Asian country, local media reported on Wednesday.

Hwang Young-cho won the marathon gold for the country in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics while Lee Bong-ju bagged silver four years later in Atlanta.

However, in recent years South Korean athletes have failed to replicate that success, prompting the Korea Association of Athletic Federations (KAAF) to look for ways of reviving the past glory.

"I've had extensive discussions with experts in the field on how to revive our marathon," KAAF chairman Oh Dong-jin was quoted as saying by the Yonhap news agency.

"To help improve our national record, giving South Korean citizenship to foreign-born athletes is considered an option."

The time of 2:07:20 set by Lee at the Tokyo Marathon in 2000 still stands as the country's national record, something Oh was not pleased about.

"In Kenya, I understand there are more than 3,000 marathoners who can clock around 2 hours and 10 minutes," Oh said.

"In South Korea, only Jeong Jin-hyeok is able to do around 2 hours and 9 minutes to 11 minutes, but others are well behind. We can't compete internationally with that."

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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