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South Korean footballer detained over suspected bribery in China

May 17, 2023

China’s Foreign Ministry confirmed on Tuesday (May 16) that South Korean football player Son Jun-ho has been detained on suspicion of bribery. According to a South Korean diplomatic source, midfielder Son was recently in their custody and was being investigated for the case.  

Son, who plays for Shandong Taishan in the Chinese Super League, was reportedly detained on his 31st birthday, Friday (May 12). South Korea’s consulate in the provincial capital, Shenyang, was notified of the detention and granted access to the player in accordance with international protocol.

“China is a country governed by the rule of law and handles the relevant cases in accordance with the law to protect all the legitimate rights and interests of the parties involved,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a news briefing in Beijing.

The spokesperson did not provide any details about the time or conditions under which the player was detained. However, according to a Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post, Son was arrested at an airport with his family on Friday as they prepared to leave the country. The newspaper also said that the bribery allegations concerned suspected match-fixing involving Chinese coach Hao Wei. 

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lim Soo-suk stated that his country is providing Son with the required consular support through its local missions. However, Soo-suk did not disclose further details about the player’s condition due to privacy reasons.

According to the industry website, Son has played seven seasons with South Korean clubs Pohang Steelers and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors before joining Taishan in 2021. The 31-year-old has represented his national team in 18 games, including the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

This is not the first time that Chinese football has been embroiled in similar controversies. Its reputation has been harmed as a result of corruption among coaches, team owners, players, referees, and government sports officials. As per reports, several high-profile personalities have been arrested on corruption charges, including former men’s national coach Li Tie.

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