The government announced Tuesday strong measures to prevent match-fixing in response to an unprecedented match-rigging scandal in the country’s top football league.
Players convicted of match-fixing attempts will be banned for life, and the related sports governing bodies will be suspended from receiving government funding, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said.
The ministry also said it will enhance the punishment for gambling brokers and illegal betting operators to root out match-rigging.
Those convicted of attempted match-fixing or giving bribes to fix matches may be sentenced to up to seven years in prison or pay a maximum fine of 70 million won ($65,000). Those receiving bribes may be sentenced to up to five years in prison or fined up to 50 million won.
The new measures will also deal with illegal online betting. Operators of betting websites may be sentenced to up to seven years in prison or fined a maximum of 70 million won, while those helping set up online betting sites will be sentenced to up to five years in prison or pay as much as 50 million won in fines.
“We’re now revising the new rules which will be in effect soon,” said Park Sun-kyu, Vice Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Speaking at a news conference, the vice minister repeatedly said the government should have prevented the match-fixing.
“I have nothing to say but that I am sorry. We understand that we’re now facing a serious crisis,” Park said.
“But this can also be an opportunity to reform our system. We’ll try to do everything to root out matching-fixing here.”
The measures come as the K-League faces a scandal involving at least nine active players.
Last month, Changwon District prosecutors arrested three players from the Daejeon Citizen for alleged involvement.
The suspects are believed to have received bribes to fix the results of the league cup game against Pohang Steelers in April, which Daejeon lost 3-0.
Two other players, a midfielder from Daejeon and a Gwangju FC goalkeeper, were also arrested earlier and four have been booked without detention. Former K-League player Jeong Jong-kwan, who was allegedly linked to the suspects, was found dead in an apparent suicide. He left a note confessing his involvement in the scandal.
The ministry announced it had already taken the football league cup games from Sports Toto, the state-run sports lottery, to prevent match-fixing.
Park said that the government’s decision to cut off funding raised from the lottery to any sports organization involved in match-fixing may have a “serious effect.”
“For instance, the football bodies received around 30 billion won from Sports Toto last year. But this could be suspended this year,” Park said.
The rule is the same for all sports ― football, baseball, basketball, volleyball and golf in Sports Toto, according to the vice minister.
“I understand that the measures are not sufficient to root out the problem, but it shows the government takes this case seriously. We’ll continue to work to root out match-fixing in this country.”
By Oh Kyu-wook (email@example.com