Ulsan Hyundai, who were in the driver’s seat of the league, faced an unexpected twist. Park Yong-woo, Lee Myung-jae, and Lee Kyu-sung are facing suspensions of up to 10 games for racist remarks.
Ulsan defeated Jeju United 5-1 at home in the 18th round of the Hana One Q K League 2023 on Oct. 10. Lee Myung-jae, who started and played in the match, uploaded a post on social media after the game, and his teammates responded to it, continuing the conversation.
Here’s where things got tricky: some players made fun of Lee’s Southeast Asian appearance. They even mentioned the real name of Sasalak Hyprakorn, a Thai national team defender who used to play for Jeonbuk.
Lee Kyu-sung commented, “The Southeast Asian quarterback is reliable,” while Park Yong-woo compared Lee to Sasalak, saying, “Sasalak’s form is crazy.” The Ulsan team manager also chimed in, saying, “Sasalak super tackle.” Lee Myung-jae responded to Jung Seung-hyun’s praise by saying, “It’s because of you, Asia Quarter.”
Even if it was a joke between teammates, it was clearly racist. They were apparently making fun of Lee Myung-jae’s dark skin color by comparing him to a Southeast Asian player. Fans also took issue with this, with one Thai fan leaving a critical comment on one of Lee’s social media posts that read, “Every word and every action has a price.”
As the controversy grew, Lee deleted the post, and Park Yong-woo and Lee Kyu-sung posted apologies on the morning of the 12th. Both players apologized to Sasalak, officials, and fans who may have been hurt by their inappropriate behavior.
Ulsan also posted an apology. Ulsan said, “We sincerely apologize to the affected parties, officials, and fans for the inappropriate behavior of our players. We will identify the situation as soon as possible and take measures to prevent recurrence, such as holding a punishment committee and training for all members of the organization.” Ulsan promised follow-up measures such as training to eradicate discrimination, apologizing to those involved, and holding a punishment committee.
Nevertheless, the impact was far-reaching. The incident also sparked controversy in Thailand, where the national soccer team posted a photo of Sasalak on social media and used the hashtag #NoRoomForRacism to call out racism. Sasalak also shared an anti-racism post from his former club, Jeonbuk, indicating that he was aware of the incident.
The KFA is also considering disciplining the players, separate from Ulsan’s own internal discipline. “We have requested a report from Ulsan, and we are grasping the situation first,” a league official said, adding, “We plan to decide whether to refer the matter to a penalty committee and take quick action.”
The official continued, “The problem has grown a lot. The league is also moving to deal with it as quickly as possible,” he said, adding, “The racism is clear and there are specific targets. We also have to consider the image of the league.” 안전놀이터
Racist behavior is a serious matter that can result in a suspension of up to 10 games. Article 4, paragraph 13 of the K League’s Code of Ethics states that “All members of the K League shall not engage in derogatory or defamatory behavior and shall not violate the dignity of others on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, nationality, social, gender, language, religion, political or other opinions, property, birth or other status, sexual orientation or other causes.”