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.