The Korea Professional Football Association (KPFA) said it is investigating a “racism controversy” with Ulsan Hyundai.
Several Ulsan players sparked a racism controversy on social networking services (SNS) on Nov. 11. Lee Kyu-sung wrote, “Southeast Asian quarterback is strong,” and Park Yong-woo wrote, “Sasalak form is crazy.” On Lee Myung-jae’s SNS, Lee Kyu-sung wrote, “Southeast Asian quarterback is strong. Not only players but also team managers were involved in mocking certain skin colors.
Sasalak, in particular, used to play in the K League. He was born in Thailand and played for Jeonbuk Hyundai in 2021. The direct reference to the real names of Southeast Asian players who have played in the K League in the past further angered soccer fans. Jeonbuk also expressed their discomfort on their official social media, saying, “We oppose racial discrimination.”
Park Yong-woo, who mentioned Sasalak, immediately posted an apology on his social media. Park Yong-woo was named to the final roster of the South Korean national soccer team’s June A match under Jürgen Klinsmann.
“I apologize to Sasalak and all the fans and people around him who may have been hurt by my flippant remarks on social media last night, where I compared my teammate’s playing style and appearance. I am deeply sorry for what happened and will be more careful with my language in the future to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
“Although my words were not intended to be racist or demeaning, I would like to sincerely apologize once again to those who were hurt and offended by my inappropriate behavior,” he continued.
Ulsan also apologized on social media. “We sincerely apologize to the affected parties, officials, and fans for the inappropriate behavior of our players. We will identify the situation as soon as possible, hold a punishment committee, and take measures to prevent recurrence, such as training for all members of the organization.” 스포츠토토
The league is also looking into the situation. An official from the federation said, “We are investigating the situation through the Ulsan club’s investigation. It will take some time as the players are currently in the midst of an A-match break. We will take the next step after receiving a report on the situation.”
According to the bylaws of professional soccer, a player can be suspended for up to 10 games and fined up to 10 million won ($11,000) for racist behavior. In the case of officers and employees, such as a club’s director of operations, the club can be fined up to 20 million won.