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(2nd LD) S. Korean football player banned for life from nat'l team over doctoring records

All Headlines 17:50 November 01, 2018

(ATTN: ADDS player's comments at bottom)
By Joo Kyung-don

SEOUL, Nov. 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korean football player Jang Hyun-soo has been hit with a life-time ban from the national team for doctoring his community service records.

The Korea Football Association (KFA)'s sports fair play committee, formerly the discipline committee, ruled on Thursday that Jang will be permanently barred from representing South Korea and will be fined 30 million won (US$26,340) for his misconduct.

The decision automatically rules Jang out of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup next year. The continental tournament will be held from Jan. 5 to Feb. 1 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The KFA rule states that a player who is determined to have committed social misconduct is banned from national team selection, while those who damage the dignity of the national team could face penalties ranging from a warning to a lifetime ban.

Korea Football Association (KFA)'s sports fair play committee members convene a meeting at the KFA House in Seoul on Nov. 1, 2018. (Yonhap)

Suh Chang-hee, the lawyer who heads the committee, said that the KFA feels sorry for the fans over the incident but that it decided to punish the FC Tokyo player for damaging the national team's honor.

"We decided to permanently ban Jang from national team selection," he said. "Jang will also get the maximum fine under the KFA code."

When asked about possibility of lifting Jang's punishment in the future, Suh said there's no such KFA rule on rescinding a penalty regarding national team selection.

"A player who received a lifetime suspension from playing football could be reviewed for a possible lifting of the ban after seven years, but this penalty regarding national team selection has no such rule," he said. "Since Jang plays in Japan and is not currently registered with us, we thought that suspending him from competing in local events isn't really a punishment. So we decided to permanently bar Jang from being called up to the national team."

The KFA had already announced Jang would not be selected for South Korea's friendly matches in November, a decision that was made after Jang requested to sit out to allow him time to complete his community service.

Jang recently admitted his wrongdoing after Rep. Ha Tae-kyung of the Bareunmirae Party accused the defender of doctoring his community service records during a parliamentary audit meeting on the Military Manpower Administration.

Able-bodied South Korean men are required to serve in the military for about two years. But Jang is exempt from serving the full mandatory service after he earned a gold medal at the 2014 Asian Games. By law, all Olympic medal winners and Asian Games gold medalists are entitled to exemption in recognition of their contribution to the country's reputation and prestige.

But those who earn the exemption need to complete basic military training, which can take up to 60 days, as well as 544 hours of sports-related community service over 34 months. The law on community service was designated in July 2015.

According to Ha, Jang submitted a document stating that he had completed 196 hours of community service in December 2017. But it turned out that the outdoor activities Jang claimed to have completed were impossible on the specified dates due to heavy snow. In addition, photos that Jang submitted for proof of community service on various dates were actually all taken on one day, the lawmaker claimed.

These photos were obtained by Rep. Ha Tae-kyung of the Bareunmirae Party. According to Ha, South Korean football player Jang Hyun-soo submitted the photo on the left as proof of his community service on Dec. 18, 2017, but the photo on the right taken at the same venue on the same date shows snow covering the field. (Yonhap)

Under the conscription law, those who falsify community service records receive a warning and a five-day extension to their original service period. The sports ministry is expected to mete out such a punishment against the footballer regardless of the KFA ruling.

Jang has been a core player for South Korea, representing the country at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He also featured in all four matches under new head coach Bento. The versatile defender has three goals in 58 caps.

Following the KFA ruling, Jang relased a statement apologizing for his misconduct, and saying that he will accept the football body's decision.

"Even though I received a privilege in mandatory military service, I'm very sorry that I wasn't able to sincerely carry out the duty as a South Korean man," he said in a statement through the KFA. "I clearly understand that there's no excuse to justify my actions. Even if I reflect on myself and feel deep regret over this incident, I know that isn't enough. I will become a disciplined player who doesn't make the same mistakes again in the future."

This file photo taken Oct. 8, 2018, shows South Korea national football team defender Jang Hyun-soo speaking to reporters at the National Football Center in Paju, north of Seoul. (Yonhap)


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