K-League teams fined for bribing school officials
BUSAN - Five professional football teams in the K-League are under fire for illegally scouting high-ranking elementary and middle school players by giving kickbacks to school managers and coaches.
The Busan District Court headed by Senior Judge Park Hyung-joon, said on Saturday that scouts and officials from five K-League teams; Suwon Samsung Bluewings, Pohang Steelers, Busan IPark, Chunnam Dragons and Ulsan Hyundai Tigers, gave hundreds of millions of won in kickbacks to four middle and elementary school managers to send their top talent to the middle and high school teams that have been managed by the club for years.
Under the K-League’s regulations, each club must run one school team as a measure to improve and support athletic teams in schools. Typically, the player on a school team that is managed by a certain club joins that club after graduation.
The court sentenced a 44-year-old man surnamed Lee, manager of the Joongdong Middle School in Seoul, to prison for one year with two years of probation and a 82.5 million won ($75,000) fine for receiving about 82 million won in kickbacks from scouts from Suwon, Pohang and Busan from September 2009 to September 2010.
“We judge that we need to place heavy penalties on the defendants because we could not see signs of regret though they disgraced the sacred tradition and spirit of the academic athletic system,” Judge Park said in the ruling.
The court also sentenced 47-year-old Cho, the manager of a football team in Bucheon, Gyeonggi, to eight months in prison with two years of probation and a 47 million won fine for the same charge. Cho received kickbacks from September 2008 to May 2010 from Suwon Samsung and Busan IPark scouts.
A 35-year-old Kang, manager of an elementary school football team in Ansan, Gyeonggi, who received 17 million won in kickbacks from Busan IPark and Ulsan Hyundai Tigers from November 2009 to December 2010 was sentenced to a 25 million won fine. A middle school team manager in Yangpyeong, Gyeonggi, surnamed Jeong, was sentenced to pay 31 million won for receiving 23 million won from Busan, Chunnam, and Pohang teams from December 2008 to September 2011.
The court also fined a 55-year-old man surnamed Lee, a scout for Suwon Samsung, 7 million won.
By We Sung-wook, Kwon Sang-soo [firstname.lastname@example.org]