Soccer-Korean women's soccer in turmoil over gender issue


By Narae Kim

SEOUL, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Seoul City Amazones jumped to the

defence of forward Park Eun-seon on Thursday after rival

managers in the South Korean women's top flight threatened to

boycott the league unless she takes a gender test.

Park, who played for South Korea at the 2003 women's World

Cup and has won 19 caps, said she was "humiliated" by the

incident while lawmakers have called for an investigation into

whether her human rights had been violated.

The Korea Football Association said Park took and passed a

gender test at the age of 15, though they did not reveal

specifics of the result.

After news of the boycott threat emerged this week, the six

coaches were the target of a social media backlash and tried to

downplay the matter as a joke made at a private meeting.

Lee Sung-kyun, the coach of Suwon, told Reuters by telephone

on Thursday he had resigned to apologise but maintained there

was no real threat of a boycott and the issue of a gender test

was merely to get Park back into the national team.

At a news conference held at Seoul City Hall, however, irate

Amazones coach Seo Jung-ho lashed out at his rivals and said

they were undermining Korean women's soccer.

"This should not have happened," he said, his voice rising

with anger. "It is just so terrible to see the coaches, who

should be mustering wisdom for the future of Korean women's

soccer, colluding to hurt one of our best players."

Local media reported that six of the WK-League's seven

coaches held an informal meeting on Oct. 19 and subsequently

filed a complaint with the KFA that if Park did not take a

gender test they would boycott next year's competition.

The 26-year-old, who played at the 2003 women's World Cup

and won her last cap two years later, is the top scorer in the

league this year with 19 goals.

"Excessive competition, selfishness and sexist insults (from

the coaches) are plaguing this young player," continued Seo.

"She is older now and managing the situation in a more

mature way than before. It looks like she is immune to it."

Jun Byung-hun, floor leader of the main opposition

Democratic Party, has called for Korea's National Human Rights

Commission to look into the matter, while a "Save Park Eun-seon"

petition on one of the nation's most popular Internet portals

has received more than 14,000 signatures.

Park did not attend the news conference but said on her

Facebook site: "I can't believe this is happening again. I have

gone through the gender examination thing several times. I did

it in a World Cup, in an Olympics and in several others and

there were no problems.

"I did it when I was young and I was mortified by them.

"I will try my best to make you feel dirty, just like I do,"

Park added in a comment apparently aimed at the coaches.


Suwon's Lee said the comments from the meeting had been

misinterpreted and that they only had the best interests of

Korean women's soccer at heart.

"I feel so sorry that it got leaked and spread in a

distorted manner," he told Reuters.

"All of the coaches there that day were talking about how

sad it is for us and Park, who is one of the best players in the

world, not to make it to the national team since 2005.

"We were making a proposal to the KFA to make better use of

her for women's soccer."

Local media said the issue of Park's gender was raised by

China ahead of the 2010 Asian Cup and that she was omitted from

the team because of it.

Lee continued: "Then we thought, if she makes it back to the

national team another country might file a complaint again about

her gender identity like China did in 2010.

"So we were merely saying it'd be better for her to take a

gender verification test in Korea in case it becomes an

international issue."

Lee said he was sorry Park had been hurt by the incident.

"During lunch I tendered my resignation to apologise to Park

for this matter."

While Lee tried to downplay the comments, Kim Joon-soo, the

secretary general of Seoul Sports Council which overseas the

running of sports teams in the Korean capital, said the matter

was no joke.

"This is a serious violation of human rights," he said at

the news conference.

"The coaches later played down their statement saying they

were making a joke at an informal meeting but I have here the

official document they submitted to the KFA," he added,

pointing to papers.

"We have no intention of accepting the gender verification

test just to stop the boycott, but if it is needed for Park to

compete in an international game and under specific regulations

of FIFA, we will consider it."

(Writing by Peter Rutherford; Editing by Patrick Johnston)

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