South Korean player not at Olympic medal ceremony

A South Korean soccer player who held up a sign with a political

message after a victory over Japan did not get a bronze Sunday when

the Olympic medals were handed out in a ceremony to the rest of his

team.

Midfielder Park Jong-woo is under investigation by the IOC and

soccer’s governing body, FIFA, for displaying the sign with a

slogan supporting South Korean sovereignty over disputed islets

that are claimed by both his country and Japan. The largely

uninhabited islets are called Dokdo by South Koreans and Takeshima

by Japanese.

The IOC and FIFA have statutes that prohibit political

statements by athletes and players. Olympic officials had asked the

South Korean Olympic Committee to take action against Park and that

he not be present at the ceremony.

When the men’s soccer medals were presented at Wembley Stadium

following Mexico’s 2-1 win over Brazil in the gold-medal match,

only 17 of the 18 South Korean players were on the field for the

ceremony. Park was not among them.

The IOC had begun an investigation into Park’s actions, and FIFA

said it has opened a separate investigation to discipline the

athlete.

South Korea defeated Japan 2-0 in Cardiff, Wales, on Friday,

hours after President Lee Myung-bak raised diplomatic tensions by

traveling to the islets. The presidential visit prompted Japan to

recall its ambassador from Seoul.

Photos of the player holding a sign on the field during the

celebration by South Korea were passed along to FIFA to determine

if any further disciplinary action will be taken, the soccer

governing body said.

South Korea stations a small contingent of police officers on

the islets in a show of control, but Japan maintains that the rocks

are its territory. Tokyo renewed the claim last month in an annual

defense report.

During his visit Friday, Lee reportedly told police officers

there that the islets are ”worth sacrificing lives for,”

according to the presidential office.

Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said it was

”incomprehensible why (Lee) would make this trip at this

time,”

On Aug. 15, South Korea will commemorate the peninsula’s

independence in 1945 from 35 years of Japanese colonial rule.