LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A South Korean footballer who inflamed tensions with Japan by displaying a political banner after the third-place match at the London Olympics will get his bronze medal, the IOC decided Tuesday.
Park Jong-woo was issued with just a warning for his actions after his team's 2-0 victory over Japan, the IOC executive board ruled. The South Korean Olympic committee will also be warned and required to educate its athletes about competition rules.
The IOC withheld Park's medal after the Aug. 10 incident pending a disciplinary hearing, which was held Monday in Lausanne.
Park displayed a sign in national colors after the bronze medal match in Cardiff, Wales, which was played amid sensitive diplomatic relations at home.
The slogan said "Dokdo is our territory" in Korean to support his country's sovereignty over islets also claimed by Japan.
IOC and FIFA rules prohibit on-field political statements, but South Korean officials argued Park had not planned a protest and merely picked up a banner thrown on the field by a fan.
"It was obvious he didn't make a political statement," IOC disciplinary panel chairman Thomas Bach told The Associated Press. "He was very fair with a Japan player who was sitting on the ground weeping after the match.
"You can see from this gesture he had nothing against Japanese people," Bach said.
FIFA previously banned Park for two World Cup matches in its own investigation of the case. He will serve his suspension when South Korea hosts Qatar on March 26 and plays at Lebanon on June 4.
The 23-year-old midfielder was called into the senior national team weeks after the Olympics, and played in a World Cup qualifier against Iran in October.
FIFA also warned the South Korean football association about future sanctions if the incident were repeated.
At Park's hearing Monday, South Korean Olympic officials accepted that team leaders "did not properly advise all of its players" about complying with game-time rules of conduct.
Hours before kickoff last August, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak traveled to the islets where his country stations a small contingent of police officers in a show of control. The presidential visit prompted Japan to recall its ambassador from Seoul.
AP Sports Writer Stephen Wilson contributed to this report.