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IOC opens probe into S. Korean footballer's Olympic celebration
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Dec. 6 (Yonhap) -- The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said Thursday it has opened an investigation into a South Korean footballer who displayed a controversial sign while celebrating the country's bronze medal at the London Olympics.

   On its Web site, the IOC said it has formed a Disciplinary Commission to investigate the case of Park Jong-woo. After South Korea beat Japan 2-0 to claim the bronze medal, the 23-year-old midfielder celebrated with a sign that read, in Korean, "Dokdo Is Our Territory." It was in support of South Korea's sovereignty over its easternmost islets, to which Japan has also laid claims for years. Dokdo has long been a source of diplomatic tensions between the neighbors.

   Park has yet to collect his bronze medal. FIFA, the international governing body of football, on Monday suspended Park for two matches and fined him 3,500 Swiss francs (US$3,780) for his "unsporting behavior." The IOC will decide whether to award Park his medal based on FIFA's disciplinary ruling.

   "Regarding the case of South Korean footballer Park Jong-woo, whose bronze medal was withheld by the IOC after an alleged political statement following his team's match against Japan at the London 2012 Games, the Executive Board decided to set up a Disciplinary Commission to look into the matter, based on the recent decision by FIFA to ban the player from international competition for two games," the IOC said on its Web site.

   The IOC's Olympic Charter prohibits any display of political statements by participating athletes, coaches and even fans.

   The IOC has already signed off on an Olympic medal certificate for Park. South Korean officials downplayed the significance of this move, however, saying athletes typically receive such certificates whether or not they have collected actual medals.

   FIFA said its decision is "final and binding," and can't be appealed. The Korea Football Association (KFA), the local governing body, was also warned by FIFA for failing to instruct players on rules of conduct. The KFA said it would humbly accept FIFA's decision and it would prevent incidents of a similar nature from occurring again.

   Park was an integral part of South Korea's bronze medal-winning team in London and has appeared in two of the country's past four international matches since the end of the Olympics.