(ATTN: UPDATES with pro league's decision in last 6 paras)
SEOUL, Feb. 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korean professional volleyball players recently suspended for bullying their former school teammates will face hurdles when seeking coaching opportunities in the future, the sport's national governing body said Tuesday.
Volleyball's V-League is reeling from a bullying scandal centered on two of the biggest stars in the women's division, Lee Jae-yeong and her twin sister Lee Da-yeong of the Heungkuk Life Pink Spiders. The 24-year-old sisters have admitted to allegations of physical, verbal and emotional abuse raised by their former middle school teammate, and their club has suspended them indefinitely. The Korea Volleyball Association (KVA) has also banned them from the national team until further notice.
On the men's side, Song Myung-geun and Sim Kyoung-sub, teammates on the OK Financial Group OKman, have also acknowledged their past bullying after one former student-athlete alleged that he had been assaulted by Song in high school and Sim in middle school. The two players have also been suspended by their club.
The playing careers of these four have been disrupted, and Cho Yong-goo, secretary general of the KVA, said on Tuesday it will also have a bearing on their pursuit of potential coaching careers.
"Players found to have been bullies in school will face grounds for disqualification when they try to earn coaching certificates," Cho said. "For anyone preparing to become a coach, having been penalized for bullying will present a major obstacle."
Also on Tuesday, the KVA banned Song, 27, and Sim, 29, from the national team, following its decision on the Lee twins from a day earlier.
Among the four, the absence of the twins will be felt more severely on the women's national team, which qualified for the Tokyo Olympics thanks in no small part to the contributions from Jae-yeong as an outside hitter and Da-yeong as a setter during the qualifying process.
Cho admitted that not carrying those two to the Olympics will deal a major blow to South Korea's chances of winning a medal, but added, "We needed to send a strong message that national team athletes will be severely punished for misconduct. We wanted to prevent similar incidents from happening again."
Later on Tuesday, the Korean Volleyball Federation (KOVO), which runs the V-League, announced that it will issue lifetime bans from the pro league on athletes with a history of bullying in school.
Currently, only players who have committed sexual misconduct face permanent bans. The KOVO said it will amend its rules at a board of governors meeting, to be held at a later date, to include bullying in that category.
Under the proposed change, those who enter rookie drafts must submit written pledges, complete with authorization from school principals or university presidents, that they have not engaged in any abusive behavior toward their teammates.
Prospects found to have forged their documents will face a permanent ban from the V-League, the KOVO added.
The federation added that the rule will not apply retroactively to the Lee twins, Song and Sim, despite growing calls from the angry public for their lifetime bans.
The KOVO also issued an apology to the players' former teammates and to volleyball fans for the scandal.
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