Is IOC overreacting?

Koreans angry over penalty on footballer for Dokdo statement

Midfielder Park Jong-woo holds up a banner that reads “Dokdo is our land,” after Korea beat Japan in men’s football to win the bronze medal Saturday (KST). The Korean islets have been manned by police since 1954 and are home to a fishing couple; however, Japan repeatedly claims they are its territory. Following the incident, Park was barred from the medals ceremony, Saturday. (Photo : Yonhap)

Many Koreans are up in arms over the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to bar Korean footballer Park Jong-woo from attending the medal ceremony after celebrating Saturday’s victory over Japan with a banner that read “Dokdo is our land.”

The Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) said that Park’s action was not intentional, explaining that he took the banner from fans in the stadium and ran with it after the team defeated Japan to win the nation’s first Olympic football medal.

Despite Park’s explanation, the IOC summarily determined that he violated the Olympic Charter that bars the use of the games for political purposes.

The 23-year-old is now under investigation by the IOC and FIFA for displaying the sign supporting Korea’s sovereignty over the islets. Japan disputes Korea’s Dokdo sovereignty.

Korea has long exercised sovereign rights over Dokdo, having stationed a police garrison there since 1954.

Many Koreans have criticized the IOC’s decision.

Comedian Nam Hee-seok said, “The factual information about our territory is neither political nor controversial.”

Some have also questioned what defines a “political” act, pointing out that the Rising Sun Flag, used by Japan’s imperial army during World War II, has been used by Japan’s cheer squads.

“We have requested (the KOC) take swift action on this issue and that the athlete not be present at today’s medal presentation ceremony,” the IOC said in a statement. “We have opened an inquiry and have asked (Korean officials) for an explanation.”

President Lee Myung-bak made a surprise visit to Dokdo two days before the game. Soon after the visit, Japan recalled its ambassador to Korea and threatened to take the issue to the International Court of Justice.

Only 17 players stood on the podium to receive bronze medals at London’s Wembley Stadium, following Mexico’s 2-1 victory over Brazil in the final with Park remaining in the locker room.

FIFA said it has opened a separate investigation, suggesting there might be further penalties ahead. Pictures of the player holding the sign were handed to football’s governing body it said.

Jacques Rogge IOC president

“In view of the information currently at his disposal, the chairman of the FIFA disciplinary committee has this afternoon decided to open disciplinary proceedings against the player Park Jong-woo, regarding his behavior after the match played between the Republic of Korea and Japan on Aug. 10,” a FIFA representative said. “The KFA and the player now have a deadline of Aug. 16 to provide their position. Further information will be provided in due course.”

At the game in CardiffMillennium Stadium, Korea beat Japan 2-0 thanks to Park Chu-young’s opener in the 38th minute followed by a strike by Koo Ja-cheol in the 57th.

Faced by the IOC’s decision and the strong public backlash, the KOC said the action was unintentional and Park just did it “in the heat of the moment of victory.” <The Korea Times/Jung Min-ho>

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