LONDON (Yonhap News) ― A South Korean football player missed the ceremony to pick up his bronze medal Saturday, after the International Olympic Committee instructed South Korea to keep him away for his political act after South Korea’s win over Japan.
Midfielder Park Jong-woo didn’t stand on the podium with his teammates at Wembley Stadium Saturday to collect his bronze medal.
South Korea beat Japan 2-0 Friday in Cardiff to claim its first-ever Olympic football medal.
The Korean Olympic Committee had said earlier that it was told by the IOC to bar Park from collecting his medal. In celebrating South Korea’s 2-0 victory over Japan to clinch the bronze in Cardiff, Park carried a sign that read, “Dokdo Is Our Territory,” referring to South Korea’s easternmost islets that Japan has long claimed as its own.
South Korean soccer player Park Jong-woo carries a sign given by a fan that reads “Dokdo Is Our Territory,” after winning the bronze medal match against Japan at the 2012 London Olympics on Friday. The IOC banned him from the medal ceremony for displaying a political message at the match. ( Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
The bronze medal contest took place hours after President Lee Myung-bak made an unprecedented visit to Dokdo, a move that further raised diplomatic tensions between the countries.
“We have requested that the (KOC) takes swift action on this issue and that the athlete not be present at today’s medal presentation ceremony,” the IOC said in a statement. “We have opened an inquiry and have asked (South Korean officials) for an explanation.”
The KOC, in its own statement, said Park picked up a sign that had been thrown in from the stands and “accidentally ran around with the sign in the heat of the moment” during post-match celebrations.
“We understand this wasn’t an intentional act on the player’s part,” the KOC said. “We are trying the best we can to resolve this issue.”
The Olympic Charter prohibits political statements by athletes.
Lee’s visit to Dokdo, the first by a South Korean president, has prompted Japan to recall its ambassador from Seoul. Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba has said his government was considering asking the international court to resolve the issue.
The KOC also said it has been asked by FIFA, the global governing body of football, to investigate the episode. The KOC faces an Aug. 16 deadline to submit its report to FIFA, officials said.