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News: Ulsan's Park Yong-woo, Lee Gyu-seong, Lee Myung-jae banned for one match

Ulsan Hyundai trio Park Yong-woo, Lee Gyu-seong, and Lee Myung-jae have each been given a one-match ban by the K League for the racist social media posts made before the international break. It is the K League disciplinary committee's first decision on racism in the league's 40-year history.

The one-game suspensions take effect immediately meaning that Ulsan boss Hong Myung-bo will be without three first-team players for this weekend's K League 1 Round 19 fixture with Daegu FC.

All three have been given fines of 15 million won, or roughly $11,600.

Park Yong-woo, Lee Gyu-seong, and Lee Myung-jae, as well as Jung Seung-hyun and a member of staff who had "played along," appeared at K League headquarters in central Seoul on Thursday for a special hearing with the league's disciplinary committee.

But Jung wasn't issued with any sort of punishment but Ulsan as a club was handed a 30 million won fine for the member of staff''s involvement.

Separately, the Korea Football Association which governs the national team had said previously that it will consider a disciplinary hearing of its own following the K League's decision.

A statement delivered by a member of the committee on Thursday explained the reasoning behind the one-game ban:

"The players didn't mean to demean or insult a particular race or individual but discrimination of people by racial characteristics such as skin colour and appearance or making them a subject of jokes also constitutes racism or human rights violations.

"We referred to similar cases in the UK and Switzerland. If you look at overseas cases, strong disciplinary action was taken if racist remarks were made directly in front of someone, but the level of disciplinary action was low when it occurred online. In many cases, a player was only suspended for up to three games or fined."

In addition, K League said it will make efforts to strengthen education and human rights awareness for the team to prevent a recurrence of similar issues in the future. According to K League rules, however, the players could have been given a 10-match ban.

Speaking to the media gathered at K League headquarters, Park Yong-soo said:

"I'm really reflecting on myself and repenting a lot. I will be careful with my words and actions so that this will never happen again. I'm sorry."

What happened?

Lee Gyu-seong, Park Yong-woo, and a member of staff were seen to have implied that teammate Lee Myung-jae was from Southeast Asia due to his dark complexion. 

Following the 5-1 win over Jeju United in Round 18, Ulsan Hyundai left back Lee Myung-jae uploaded a picture on Instagram and in the comments, midfielder Lee Gye-seong can be seen as replying with "[The] Southeast Asian Quota [player] is reliable" with a fire emoji, Park Yong-woo, also with the use of a fire emoji, replied with "Sasalak's form is crazy (good)" referring to former Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors right back and Thai international Sasalak Haiprakhon. The member of staff then replied, albeit with a typo, "Sasalak super tackle."

The exchange was seen by fans and shared with the media and on internet forums and sparked outrage. It was also picked up by media outlets in Thailand and made the national television news. 

Lee Gyu-seong and Park Yong-woo both released statements on Instagram, Lee being the first followed by Park who edited the caption to take out a section that said that he did not intend to cause offence or for his words to be racist. 

In between Lee and Park's statements, Ulsan Hyundai also released something but in Korean only and not in Thai or English as some fans had pointed out in the comments. A full review was promised and, if necessary, disciplinary action as well as an apology to Sasalak.


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