The head of South Korea's football governing body on Friday apologized for his agency's handling of the aftermath of a football player's politically-charged celebration at the London Olympics.
During a question-and-answer session of the National Assembly's committee on culture and sports, Cho Chung-yun, head of the Korea Football Association (KFA), apologized for a controversial letter sent by the KFA to the Japan Football Association (JFA).
The letter, written in English, was sent Monday, days after South Korea's Park Jong-woo, in celebrating his team's 2-0 victory over Japan in the bronze medal match in London, carried around a sign that read in Korean, "Dokdo Is Our Territory." The letter came under fire for its apologetic tone and for the KFA's apparent acknowledgment of Park's wrongdoing.
"I'd like to sincerely apologize for the trouble this letter has caused," Cho told lawmakers. "When the situation demands, then I can take the responsibility."
The letter in question, signed by Cho, was titled, "Unsporting Celebrating Activities after the Olympic Football Match." Critics charged the headline alone showed the KFA admitted Park had engaged in inappropriate behavior before any official ruling from either FIFA or the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
In the document, Cho also wrote, "I would like to cordially convey my regrets and words" for the case. Earlier this week, KFA officials refuted Japanese media reports that South Koreans had "apologized" for the Park incident because they had only used the term "regrets."
Critics said, however, that the word "regret" amounts to an apology in diplomatic documents.
Cho insisted in the letter that Park was "enraptured from the winning of the match" and never acted intentionally. He closed out by asking for Japan's "kind understanding and generosity."
The letter also contained grammatically incorrect sentences and phrases, including "It was just happened impulsively" and "I believe that it should not happened again." Cho on Friday said the letter was originally written in English and wasn't translated from Korean.
Lawmakers on Friday also grilled the KFA on whether it was necessary to send such a letter to Japan at all. Sources said Kim Joo-sung, the association's secretary general, first suggested the KFA write to the JFA and Cho, the chairman, approved the idea.
However, sources also said most other executives weren't aware of this correspondence.
The KFA's public relations department was kept in the dark about the letter and also Kim's visit to FIFA headquarters in Switzerland earlier this week to handle Park's investigation there.
The words in Park's sign were in reference to South Korea's easternmost islets, long a source of diplomatic rows between Seoul and Tokyo. Japan has repeatedly laid claims to Dokdo, while South Korea has rejected those claims as denying Korea's rights. South Korea argues when it regained independence from Japan's colonial rule in 1945, it also reclaimed sovereignty over its territory, including Dokdo.
Park is currently under investigation by FIFA and the IOC. The Olympic Charter bans the display of political messages by athletes in competition. Kim, who returned from Switzerland Friday, told reporters here that he tried to "explain all the facts" and to stress that Park's action was not premeditated or intentional.
"FIFA wanted to know the truth behind Park's celebration, and we explained our position based on the facts," Kim said at Incheon International Airport. "We submitted our report to FIFA, which will review it at its disciplinary committee meeting before reporting to the IOC."
Kim said FIFA's disciplinary committee will also discuss whether to hand out its own punishment separate from the IOC, and added, "We're just monitoring the situation as FIFA prepares to report to the IOC."
Park was forced to miss the medal ceremony to collect his bronze medal in London. (Yonhap News)
<관련 한글 기사>
‘독도 세러모니’ 사죄 편지, 영어도 엉터리
런던 올림픽 일본과의 남자축구 동메달 결정전 직후 박종우(23•부산) 선수의 ‘독도 세리머니’와 관련해 대한축구협회가 일본축구협회에 보낸 이메일에는 박선수가 잘못을 했다고 인정하는 표현은 물론, 영어까지 엉터리인 것으로 드러나 논란이 일고 있다.
연합뉴스, 중앙일보 등이 입수해 보도한 이 편지는 제목부터 ‘Unsporting celebrating activities’라는 표현을 썼는데, 이는 스포츠에 어울리지 않는 기념행위라는 의미로 박 선수의 행위에 대해 잘못이라고 먼저 인정하는 셈이다.
또한 ‘정치적 의도가 절대 없었다’, ‘우발적으로 일어난 것이라고 확신한다’, ‘모든 대표팀 선수들과 코치진에게 교육과 지시사항을 통해, 강한 메시지를 반드시 전달하겠다’라고 표현을 통해 이번과 같은 사태가 재발하지 않을 것을 강조하고 있다.
이와 같은 표현 외에 “너그러운 이해(kind understanding)와 아량(generosity)을 보여 주면 매우 감사하겠다(highly appreciated)”는 표현 등, 동등한 관계에서 대화를 나누는 것이 아닌 필요이상으로 저자세를 유지하는 듯한 표현도 보인다.
더군다나 비슷한 의미를 갖고 있는 단어를 중복해서 사용하고 (matches and competitions) 비격식체인 and/or 등의 표현을 쓰는가 하면 관사 the, a/an 등을 거의 생략하는 등 공문이라고 보기 어려울 정도의 엉터리 영어를 구사하고 있다. 심지어 ‘(앞으로) 재발하지 않아야 (should not happen)’라는 표현을 과거형을 써 should not happened라고 쓰기도 한다.
이에 대해 조중연 회장은 사과가 아니라 해명성 이메일이라고 해명하면서도 "서 신으로 물의를 일으키게 된 점 진심으로 사과드린다"고 밝힌 뒤 "앞으로 어떤 책임을 져야 할 상황이면 책임질 수도 있다"고 밝힌 것으로 알려졌다.