Korean football is sliding into crisis as an unprecedented match-rigging scandal involving at least 10 players from the country’s top division league continues to snowball.
The Changwon District Prosecutors Office announced on Thursday that former national team striker Kim Dong-hyun, who plays with Sangju Sangmu, was summoned on suspicion of fixing matches and receiving money from a bookmaker.
The news came after investigators on Wednesday arrested two other K-league players in connection with the alleged match-fixing.
The prosecutors said that at least 10 players, including Kim, are now under investigation for receiving money from brokers. The prosecutors added that there is another player from the second-division league involved in the case.
The investigators believe that two gambling brokers, one of whom is identified as a former player, bribed the players to fix matches and they made large sums of money by betting on the game through lotteries operated by Sports Toto. They were arrested last week.
A goalkeeper and a midfielder, playing for separate teams in K-League, were also arrested on Wednesday on charges of accepting 100 million won and 120 million won, respectively, from the brokers in April. The bribed players are said to have fabricated a variety of situations during a game.
The prosecutors are now looking into whether the two suspects shared the bribe money with other players to deliberately to fix matches.
Although there have been other small pre-arranged incidents in the other divisions, it is the first time that such a sandal has come to light in the country’s top-division league for the purpose of fixing legal betting. Fixers are believed to have been involved across the 16-team league.
What makes the issue more worrisome is that match-rigging has long secretly circulated among footballers. Reports said managers sometimes officially warned players about the match-rigging incidents.
“I knew this kind of things happening secretly,” a manager from the K-League club, which is involved in the current case, said.
By Oh Kyu-wook (email@example.com