The fallout from the racist behaviour of Ulsan Hyundai players in the K League 1 is intense. The KFA has asked the club to submit a statement of reasons and plans to refer the matter to a punishment committee.
On 11 November, Ulsan defender Lee Myung-jae made a series of racist comments on social networking services (SNS). Lee posted a post celebrating the 5-1 win over Jeju United in the 18th round, to which Lee Kyu-sung responded, “Southeast Asia quarter is strong. Teammate Park Yong-woo replied, “Sasalak’s form is crazy,” referring to the Thai international defender’s real name, who previously played for Jeonbuk Hyundai. Even the club staff joined in.
They made racist comments about Lee Myung-jae’s skin colour, referring to him as a “Southeast Asian quarter” and Sasalak as a Thai national. Football fans were outraged and protested, and when he realised what was happening, he deactivated the comment box and then deleted the post.
But the aftermath was devastating. Fans demanded an official apology from both the player and the club. They were offended that racism, one of FIFA’s most taboo behaviours, was being used in the K League. In the same way that European players like Son Heung-min and Lee Kang-in feel unfairly victimised by racist acts, some felt ashamed to think of how Southeast Asian players like Sasalak must feel about this incident.
Ulsan eventually issued an apology. “We sincerely apologise to the affected parties, officials and fans for the inappropriate behaviour of our players. We will identify the situation as soon as possible, hold a punishment committee, and take measures to prevent recurrence, including training for all members of the team.” “In the wake of this incident, we will conduct training for all members of our organisation to eradicate all forms of discrimination.”
The team’s head coach, Hong Myung-bo, also spoke at the ‘Footballers’ Charity Golf Tournament’ in Wonju on the 13th, saying, “I would like to express my sincere apologies to the players whose real names were mentioned, their families, Buriram United and Thai football fans,” adding, “I think we can be victims at any time. I would like to apologise and assure the players that this will never happen again.”
The federation is also taking the situation seriously. On the 13th, a federation official said, “We have asked the club to submit a statement of reasons. We will refer it to the punishment committee to discuss disciplinary action,” the official said, adding, “We will announce whether and how much discipline will be imposed before the league resumes after the A-Match break.” Under the league’s rules, the punishment for racist behaviour is up to a 10-match suspension or a 10 million won fine. 토토사이트
Meanwhile, if history is any indication, the Ulsan players will face a harsh backlash. Regardless of whether they are disciplined by the federation or not, they could find themselves refused handshakes by players from other teams. In 2012, Queens Park Rangers (QPR) captain Park Ji-Sung twice refused to shake hands with opposition captain John Terry before a match against Chelsea. At the time, Terry was accused of making racist comments about QPR defender Anton Ferdinand, and Park showed his camaraderie by refusing to shake Terry’s hand when the players from both teams greeted each other and when the captains greeted the referees.
Racist behaviour has also come under fire in the K League. However, it was the commentators, not the players, who caused the problem. In 2019, a commentator in the K League 2 made a shocking remark about Ansan Greeners’ Vinci Singco, saying, “I can see this,” and was promptly banned.