The aftermath of the racist behavior by Ulsan Hyundai in the K League 1 continues to mount. The KFA has asked the club to submit a statement of reasons and plans to refer the matter to a penalty committee.
On Nov. 11, Ulsan defender Lee Myung-jae made a series of racist comments on social networking services (SNS). Lee posted a post celebrating the 5-1 win over Jeju United in the 18th round, to which Lee Kyu-sung responded, “Southeast Asia quarter is reliable. Teammate Park Yong-woo replied, “Sasalak’s form is crazy,” referring to the Thai international defender’s real name, who previously played for Jeonbuk Hyundai. Even the club staff joined in.
They made racist comments about Lee Myung-jae’s skin color, referring to him as a “Southeast Asian quarter” and Sasalak as a Thai national. The soccer fans protested in disbelief, and after realizing what was happening, Lee deactivated the comment section and then deleted the post.
But the aftermath was devastating. Fans demanded an official apology from both the player and the club. They were offended that racism, one of FIFA’s most taboo behaviors, was being used in the K League. Just as players like Son Heung-min and Lee Kang-in, who play in Europe, feel unfairly victimized by racist acts, there were also those who felt embarrassed by the way Sasalak and other players from Southeast Asia felt about the incident.
In the end, Ulsan issued an apology. “We sincerely apologize to the affected parties, officials, and fans for the inappropriate behavior of the 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.” “In light of this incident, we will conduct training for all members of the organization to eradicate all forms of discrimination.”
The team’s head coach, Hong Myung-bo, said at the ‘Footballers’ Charity Golf Tournament’ in Wonju on the 13th, “I would like to apologize to the players whose real names were mentioned, their families, and the fans of Buriram United and Thai soccer,” adding, “I think we can be victims at any time. We apologize to the players, the families of the players named and the fans of Buriram United and Thai soccer,” he said.
The federation is also taking the situation seriously. On the 13th, a federation official said, “We have asked the club to submit a statement of reasons. We will refer it to the penalty committee to discuss disciplinary action,” and said, “We will announce whether and how much disciplinary action will be taken before the league resumes after the A-Match break.” Under the league’s rules, the penalty for racist behavior is a maximum 10-match suspension or a 10 million won fine.스포츠토토
Meanwhile, if history is any indication, the Ulsan players will face a harsh backlash. Regardless of whether they are disciplined by the league or not, they could find themselves refused handshakes by players from other teams. In 2012, Queens Park Rangers (QPR) captain Park Ji-Sung twice refused to shake hands with opposing captain John Terry before a match against Chelsea. At the time, Terry was accused of making racist comments about QPR defender Anton Ferdinand, and Park showed his camaraderie by refusing to shake Terry’s hand when players from both teams greeted each other and when the captains greeted the referees.
Racist behavior has come up in the K League before. However, it was the commentators, not the players, who caused the problem. In 2019, a commentator during a K League 2 game made a shocking remark about Ansan Greeners’ Vinci Singco, saying, “I can see this,” and was promptly removed from the game.