The Korea Herald


Gender row hits female soccer player

By Korea Herald

Published : Nov. 7, 2013 - 19:06

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Park Eun-seon (Yonhap News) Park Eun-seon (Yonhap News)
The golden days of Park Eun-seon’s life after she led her team to the second spot in the Korean women’s football league this season have been soured by a gender row.

The Seoul City football club held a news conference Thursday to denounce demands for a gender verification test and ask for an apology from six clubs who questioned whether Park is a woman.

The news conference came as news reports surfaced that the six teams questioned her gender and asked the league to verify it.

The six head coaches are said to have asked for a ban on Park starting next season if she is confirmed as male or they will boycott the league.

The 27-year-old forward on the Seoul City team is rated among the best female footballers of the WK League.

She played 26 games, scored 25 goals and assisted two goals this season. She is the leading scorer of the 2013 season. Thanks to her stellar performance, her team won in the annual national sports festival organized by the Korean Olympic Council and placed second among the seven teams in the league.

She is being considered as a possible member of the national squad.

Park has a stout physique for a Korean female football player. She is 180 cm tall and weighs 74 kg. She graduated from a girls’ middle school and an industrial high school.

“Their demand for gender screening is an attempt to end her athletic career. It goes against the basic human rights of a player,” Kim Joon-soo, manager of the Seoul City team, said at a news conference.

“They should never bring up this issue again or the Seoul Sports Council, in conjunction with Seoul City, will take action to protect the human rights of players.”

Kim also is the secretary general of the Seoul Sports Council.

“We will ask for an official apology from them.”

In 2000, the Korea Football Association dropped Park from the national team for the Asian Cup after the Chinese team reportedly threatened to request a gender test on Park if she entered the tournament.

Oh Kyu-sang, president of the Korea Women’s Football Federation, criticized the six teams for making an issue out of the gender test. However, the federation previously asked for the Seoul City team to verify her gender.

The escalation of the issue has attracted the attention of the state human rights agency.

“We sent a letter to the football association to see what is fact and what is not,” said Hyun Byung-chul, chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, when questioned by Rep. Jun Byung-hun of the Democratic Party in a parliamentary audit Thursday.

“The commission will take every possible action based on the facts.”

Park vented her distress online.

“They are not the people who don’t know me. They smiled at me, greeted me and encouraged me. Then they are trying to end my career. It hurts,” she posted on Facebook, Wednesday.

“I have not been gender tested just once or twice. I felt much shame at a young age.”

The internet was abuzz with accusations against the six clubs.

“What did she do wrong? Shame on you six clubs,” a visitor to the WL League website posted.

An online appeal to advocate for Park has gathered over 15,000 signatures Thursday. It aims to collect 50,000 signatures.

News articles regarding Park received over 1,000 comments in a country where women’s football news draws a meager readership.

“The gender controversy is a truly sad reality which hurt deeply in her heart,” one netizen wrote.

By Chun Sung-woo (