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Slogan on South Korean flag probed at Olympics

By GRAHAM DUNBAR,

AP Sports Writer

Updated August 11, 2012

(AP Photo/Jon Super)

LONDON (AP) A South Korean soccer player who displayed his country's flag with a political slogan after a victory against Japan should be barred from Saturday's medal ceremony, the IOC told team officials.

The International Olympic Committee and soccer's governing body are reviewing evidence that the player displayed the flag with a slogan that supported sovereignty of disputed islands between South Korea and Japan.

South Korea defeated Japan 2-0 on Friday in the bronze-medal match, hours after President Lee Myung-bak visited the islets. The presidential visit prompted Tokyo to recall its ambassador from Seoul.

The match in Cardiff, Wales, was seen as potentially raising diplomatic tensions.

FIFA says it was "made aware of this incident" and its disciplinary panel chairman will study photos from the stadium. FIFA statutes prohibit political statements being made at its matches, and the IOC generally only allows official national flags to be displayed at events.

"We have also requested that the (South Korea Olympic Committee) takes swift action on this issue and that the athlete not be present at today's medal presentation ceremony," the IOC said.

"We have opened an inquiry and have asked ... for an explanation."

FIFA has received pictures from the stadium showing a South Korea player celebrating the victory with the flag on the field.

"The image will be passed to the chairman of the FIFA disciplinary committee for his review, and to evaluate any further steps to be taken," the organization said.

The largely uninhabited islets, midway between South Korea and Japan, are called Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese.

South Korea stations a small contingent of police officers there in a show of control, but Japan maintains that the rocks are its territory. Tokyo renewed the claim last month in an annual defense report.

During his visit Friday, Lee reportedly told police officers there that the islets are "worth sacrificing lives for," according to the presidential office.

Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said it was "incomprehensible" that Lee would travel to the islands "at this time." Next Wednesday, South Korea will commemorate the peninsula's independence in 1945 from 35 years of Japanese colonial rule.

It's not the first flag flap at the London Games. Organizers mistakenly displayed the South Korean flag on a jumbo screen instead of North Korea's before a women's soccer match on Aug. 1, prompting the North Koreans to refuse to take the field for nearly an hour. Organizers apologized for the error.

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