Ulsan Hyundai ‘unpunished’ for racism…last chance missed
Ulsan Hyundai’s answer to the first-ever racism controversy was ‘no punishment’.
The Ulsan club did not discipline the players who committed racism. This is the final result of the club’s own punishment committee. It only concluded that the team manager would be dismissed from his position, an apology letter would be sent to the Thai soccer community, including Sasalak (Thailand), and education and campaigns to prevent recurrence to eradicate social discrimination.
The key point is missing. There was no club discipline for the players. Apologizing to the parties, suspending the team manager, and participating in future campaigns were all things the club should have done regardless of the outcome at the penalty committee level. At the end of the day, it’s all about how responsible the club is in disciplining the players. Ulsan ended their punishment without holding the players accountable with any fines or community service, let alone suspensions.
Ulsan’s “last chance” to hold those at the center of the unprecedented racial discrimination issue accountable was taken away from them. After the KFA’s cotton-batting punishment, all eyes were on Ulsan’s responsible behavior and the level of punishment, as the club responded with an unspeakable lack of punishment.
Earlier, for the first time ever, the KFA handed down one-match suspensions and fines of 15 million won to three of the four players referred to the racism committee. The players had previously come under fire for using the words “Southeast Asian quarter” and the real names of players from Thailand on social media. However, despite the clear stipulation of a 10-match suspension or more for racial slurs, the fine was reduced to just one game instead of 5 million won more than the standard, which caused controversy. Hong Myung-bo, the head coach of the Korean Baseball Organization, gave a one-game suspension to Jeong Seung-hyun, who was left out of the punishment because he did not directly mention racism. Amidst the criticism of the federation’s cotton-batting punishment, the focus was on how responsible Ulsan would be as a club.
However, Ulsan used the federation’s punishment as a shield. “We respect the opinion of the federation’s punishment committee and the discipline handed down by coach Hong Myung-bo,” the club said in a statement. Apart from the federation discipline, the club could have imposed its own discipline, but Ulsan covered up for the players and turned a blind eye to the controversy.
The problem is that this was done in a “sneaky” way. The club’s punishment committee was suddenly held on the 27th, more than a month after the controversy broke. The results were only released to a select group of journalists. It wasn’t until the morning after the meeting that the club released the official results of the penalty committee regarding racism. This was a clear departure from the club’s previous response to the controversy, which was to apologize the next day and promise swift disciplinary action.
It wasn’t until the afternoon of the penalty committee that an apology was posted under the name of CEO Kim Kwang-guk. It revealed the circumstances of the incident, the decision of the federation’s punishment committee, and tried to look like a plausible apology. In fact, the names of the players who were disciplined were initialed A-C, etc. The names of the players who were victims of racism were simply written as “Southeast Asian quarterback” and “player B”.
There was also controversy over whether it was appropriate to apologize for the racist incident and reiterate that it was unintentional. Kim Kwang-guk even made an outrageous call for Ulsan fans to show more support, saying, “Now it’s our fans’ turn.” Combined with the club’s previous lack of discipline, it’s reasonable to question the “sincerity” of Kim’s apology.안전놀이터
As a result, the first-ever racial slur will go down in K League history as a one-game suspension and a fine from the federation. It is inevitable that the level of discipline will be used as a benchmark for similar controversies in the future. The lack of punishment and the head-scratching apology from the Ulsan club is the biggest reason why the club needed to take action.
If Ulsan was serious about the controversy, they should have handed down a convincing punishment quickly, not just covered up for the players. It should have followed up with a genuine apology to the racists and a change in the captaincy, not just a show apology for the domestic fans.
The fact that fans from Thailand, Indonesia, and other Southeast Asian countries are still posting “anti-racist” comments on the club’s social media means that Ulsan’s response was clearly wrong. For the same reason, the club’s pledge that “as the No. 1 club in the K League, the players, coaching staff, and front office will recognize the gravity of the situation and act accordingly” doesn’t ring true.