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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 5:01 pm

South Korean soccer player to get Olympic medal


A South Korean soccer player who displayed a political banner at the London Olympics will get his bronze medal back, the IOC announced Tuesday.

Park Jong-woo was issued with just a warning for his actions after his team's 2-0 victory over Japan, the IOC executive board ruled. South Korea's Olympic committee will be warned and required to educate its athletes about competition rules.

Park must receive his medal "without fanfare or publicity," as a condition of the sanction, International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said.

The IOC withheld Park's medal after the Aug. 10 match pending a disciplinary hearing, which was held Monday in Lausanne.

Park displayed a sign in national colors after the game in Cardiff, Wales, which was played amid sensitive diplomatic relations at home.

The slogan said "Dokdo is our territory" in Korean to support his country's sovereignty over islets also claimed by Japan.

IOC and FIFA rules prohibit on-field political statements, but South Korean officials argued Park had not planned a protest and merely picked up a banner thrown on the field by a fan.

"It was obvious he didn't make a political statement," IOC disciplinary panel chairman Thomas Bach told The Associated Press. "He was very fair with a Japan player who was sitting on the ground weeping after the match.

"You can see from this gesture he had nothing against Japanese people," Bach said.

FIFA previously banned Park for two World Cup qualifiers in its own investigation of the case. He will serve his suspension when South Korea hosts Qatar on March 26 and plays at Lebanon on June 4.

The 23-year-old midfielder was selected for the national team weeks after the Olympics and played in a World Cup qualifier against Iran in October.

FIFA also warned South Korea's soccer federation about future sanctions if the actions were repeated.

At Park's hearing Monday, South Korean Olympic officials accepted that team leaders "did not properly advise all of its players" about complying with game-time rules of conduct.

Hours before kickoff last August, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak traveled to the islets where his country stations a small contingent of police officers in a show of control. The presidential visit prompted Japan to recall its ambassador from Seoul.


AP Sports Writer Stephen Wilson contributed to this report.