Three professional Korean football players were fined and slapped with a suspension on Thursday after appearing to make racist comments on Instagram.
Key details: Lee Myung-jae, Lee Kyu-seong and Park Yong-woo, who play for Ulsan Hyundai FC in the Korea Professional Football League (K League), allegedly exchanged racist comments between each other on Instagram on June 11.
They were each fined 15 million Korean won (approximately $11,450) and given a one-game suspension, in what is reportedly the first time any player has been punished by the K League for alleged racism since its inception in 1983.
What happened: Ulsan defender Lee Myung-jae posted on Instagram to celebrate their team’s victory over Jeju United on June 10. Lee Kyu-seong, the team’s midfielder, referenced the defender’s darker skin tone in his comment by calling him a “Southeast Asian quarter.”
Referencing someone with darker skin tone as being from Southeast Asia or one of its countries is considered a common insult in the country, according to Korea JoongAng Daily.
The “Asian quarter” part, which references players drawn from other Asian countries but primarily from Southeast Asia, was reportedly a reference to Jung’s darker skin tone.
Other people involved: Additionally, Park referenced Thai soccer player Sasalak Haiprakhon, who last played for Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in 2021, when he was commenting about Lee Myung-jae, writing, “Sasalak is in crazy form.”
A staff member from Ulsan also used the same reference when they complimented Lee Myung-jae, commenting, “Sasalak super tackle.”
The aftermath: All of the involved players issued apologies following the incident.
Lee Myung-jae eventually deleted his Instagram post that triggered the controversy. The team also received a separate fine of 30 million Korean won (approximately $22,900) for the incident.