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. ( Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
Korea's football governing body has come under fire for its regret over a Dokdo slogan displayed by a Korean footballer at the London Olympics last week.
After Korea beat Japan 2-0 on Saturday to clinch the bronze, midfielder Park Jong-woo carried a sign that read, "Dokdo Is Our Territory," referring to Korea's easternmost islets that Japan has long claimed as its own.
"An English e-mail under the name of Cho Chung-yun, president of the Korea Football Association (KFA), was sent on Monday to the Japan Football Association (JFA)," said Kim Joo-sung, the secretary-general of the KFA.
"We explained that Park brandishing the slogan did not carry any political intentions, and was not a premeditated action," Kim said.
Following the game, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) barred Park from taking part in the medal ceremony, saying that political statements by athletes are prohibited. The IOC has asked the global football governing body FIFA to discipline Park, and said it may decide on further sanctions later and would withhold the bronze medal until the case is reviewed by FIFA.
The ceremony took place hours after President Lee Myung-bak made an unprecedented visit to Dokdo, a move that further raised diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
Japanese media earlier Tuesday said the JFA had received an "apologetic" e-mail from the KFA.
However, Kim said "the e-mail was sent to explain that Park's acts were not intentional and the word 'apology' was not inside the mail."
The KFA said it has not sent any letter of apology to the JFA, saying the Japanese media reports were "clearly incorrect."
"The e-mail was a simple document to convey the KFA's regret over the incident," the KFA added.
On Monday, Culture Minister Cho Kwang-sik said that regardless of sanctions from international sports organizations, the Korean government will not invalidate all the Olympic medal-related rewards, including exemption from military duty, for footballer Park.
The KFA has insisted that Park acted "in the heat of the moment" and said Park seized the sign from a fan, stressing the incident was not pre-planned.
The KFA said it is preparing data to back up that claim, to be handed to FIFA sometime before Thursday.
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'독도 세러모니' 죄송해? 네티즌 분노 폭발
대한축구협회가 런던올림픽 남자축구 3-4위전에서 벌어진 '독도 세리머니'와 관련, 일본축구협회에 해명 이메일을 보낸 사실이 알려지면 네티즌들의 질타가 이어지고 있다.
김주성 축구협회 사무총장은 14일 조중연 축구협회장 명의로 13일 일본축구협회에 영문 이메일을 보내 박종우의 행동이 정치적인 의도를 담고 있거나 계획적인 것이 아니었다고 일본 측에 설명했다.
김 사무총장은 "앞으로 이런 일이 일어나지 않도록 서로가 노력하자는 내용도 담았다"고 덧붙였다.
이에 대해 일본 언론들은 14일 다이니 구니야 일본축구협회장이 대한축구협회로부터 '사과' 이메일을 받았으며 "다시는 이런 일이 일어나지 않도록 하겠다"라는 내용을 담고 있다고 보도했다.
또한 국내 네티즌들도 축구협회의 행동에 대해 “독도가 일본땅도 아니고 우리 영토인데 왜 해명을 해야 하는가,” “축구 협회를 이해할 수 없다” 고 말하는 등 불만을 토로하고 있다.
이에 대해 김 사무총장은 "조중연 회장의 이메일은 박종우의 행동이 의도적이 아니었다고 설명하는 취지였다"며 "영문으로 된 이메일에 '사과'(apology)라는 단어는 들어 있지 않다"고 말했다.
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