The Korea Herald


Defender dropped from Asiad men's football team over past DUI conviction

By Yonhap

Published : July 18, 2023 - 10:31

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This file photo shows the K League 2 clubs midfielder Lee Sang-min. (Seongnam FC) This file photo shows the K League 2 clubs midfielder Lee Sang-min. (Seongnam FC)

Under mounting criticism, the South Korean football governing body decided on Tuesday to drop defender Lee Sang-min from the men's Asian Games squad over his past drunk driving conviction.

The Korea Football Association acknowledged and apologized for its oversight in selecting Lee in the first place last Friday against its own set of rules.

Lee was arrested after driving under the influence of alcohol in May 2020 while playing for Chungnam Asan in the second-tier K League 2. Three months later, on Aug. 5, he was ordered to pay a fine of 5 million won ($3,950). Under the KFA's rules guiding national team operations, players who have been fined at least 5 million won for drunk driving or other related offense cannot be selected to any national team for at least three years.

This means he is not eligible to make any South Korean national team until Aug. 4, but Hwang Sun-hong, head coach of the Asiad team, still called up the 23-year-old.

Lee had also been suspended 15 matches by the K League in 2020, though he still went on to play six matches for the under-23 national team between October 2021 and June 2023. He now plays for Seongnam FC, also in the K League 2.

"We humbly acknowledge that we selected a player against our own rules on national team operations," the KFA said in a statement. "We vow to ensure there won't be a repeat of similar instances."

As for selecting Lee to earlier iterations of the U-23 teams in light of his court fine and league suspension, the KFA said, "It was difficult to stay on top of news on leagues and players other than the K League 1 and those on the senior national team."

"We failed to properly review our rules when we first selected him in 2021," the KFA added. "We must admit to our inadequate handling of the situation."

Hwang also apologized through the KFA and vowed to pay closer attention to the player selection process.

South Korea will try to win their third straight Asian Games gold medal in Hangzhou, China, this fall. (Yonhap)