South Korean soccer player to get Olympic medal

A South Korean soccer player who displayed a political banner at
the London Olympics will get his bronze medal back, the IOC
announced Tuesday.

Park Jong-woo was issued with just a warning for his actions
after his team’s 2-0 victory over Japan, the IOC executive board
ruled. South Korea’s Olympic committee will be warned and required
to educate its athletes about competition rules.

Park must receive his medal ”without fanfare or publicity,” as
a condition of the sanction, International Olympic Committee
spokesman Mark Adams said.

The IOC withheld Park’s medal after the Aug. 10 match pending a
disciplinary hearing, which was held Monday in Lausanne.

Park displayed a sign in national colors after the game in
Cardiff, Wales, which was played amid sensitive diplomatic
relations at home.

The slogan said ”Dokdo is our territory” in Korean to support
his country’s sovereignty over islets also claimed by Japan.

IOC and FIFA rules prohibit on-field political statements, but
South Korean officials argued Park had not planned a protest and
merely picked up a banner thrown on the field by a fan.

”It was obvious he didn’t make a political statement,” IOC
disciplinary panel chairman Thomas Bach told The Associated Press.
”He was very fair with a Japan player who was sitting on the
ground weeping after the match.

”You can see from this gesture he had nothing against Japanese
people,” Bach said.

FIFA previously banned Park for two World Cup qualifiers in its
own investigation of the case. He will serve his suspension when
South Korea hosts Qatar on March 26 and plays at Lebanon on June
4.

The 23-year-old midfielder was selected for the national team
weeks after the Olympics and played in a World Cup qualifier
against Iran in October.

FIFA also warned South Korea’s soccer federation about future
sanctions if the actions were repeated.

At Park’s hearing Monday, South Korean Olympic officials
accepted that team leaders ”did not properly advise all of its
players” about complying with game-time rules of conduct.

Hours before kickoff last August, South Korean President Lee
Myung-bak traveled to the islets where his country stations a small
contingent of police officers in a show of control. The
presidential visit prompted Japan to recall its ambassador from
Seoul.

AP Sports Writer Stephen Wilson contributed to this report.