[Newsmaker] Main opposition Liberty Korea Party draws criticism for campaigning inside football stadium

By Kim Bo-gyung

Gyeongnam FC demands apology from main opposition, says it could take legal action

  • Published : Apr 1, 2019 - 16:06
  • Updated : Apr 1, 2019 - 20:17

In the final sprint to the April 3 parliamentary by-election, main opposition Liberty Korea Party leader Hwang Kyo-ahn and the party’s Changwon district candidate Kang Ki-yoon on Monday were blasted for violating the K League’s ban on campaigning inside a stadium of the soccer league over the weekend, while Gyeongnam FC said they may be subject to punishment.

Main opposition Liberty Korea Party leader Hwang Kyo-ahn (center) and the party’s Changwon district candidate Kang Ki-yoon greet spectators inside the Changwon Football Center, in violation of the K League’s guidelines, on Saturday. (Yonhap)

Demanding an official apology, Gyeongnam FC released a statement detailing the incident. “While checking tickets, the security company told them (Liberty Korea Party campaigners) that they cannot enter the stadium wearing clothing with the party name, and the candidate’s number and name. But some campaigners ignored the notice and refused to change their clothing,” the statement said.

The statement added that the club will seek ethical responsibility from Kang and take legal action depending on the punishment imposed by the K League. On Monday, a spokesperson said that the first-ever incident involving political activity will be referred to the committee tasked with determining penalties. The meeting will convene Tuesday morning. “The KFA and FIFA strictly ban political and religious activities inside a stadium,” the spokesperson told The Korea Herald.

The incident took place on Saturday when Hwang and Kang visited the Changwon Football Center as part of their campaign activities for the by-election.

The K League prohibits spectators from wearing clothing displaying information about political candidates inside stadiums as well as the display of banners, among other displays promoting candidates.

A home team that violates the rule can be punished with fines of over 20 million won ($17,600), a deduction of over 10 points, a home game without fans or a home game at a third location.

In the face of growing criticism, Hwang said, “We tried (to abide by the guidelines) but we will make more efforts in the future.”

Defending its actions, the conservative party argued it entered the stadium wearing campaign uniforms with the green light from the National Election Commission and its campaigners changed into different clothing at the request of Gyeongnam FC.

On the same day, minor opposition Bareunmirae Party leader Sohn Hak-kyu and the party’s candidate Lee Jae-hwan, as well as minor liberal Justice Party Chairwoman Lee Jeong-mi and its candidate Yeo Young-guk also visited the Changwon Football Center, but they did not campaign inside the stadium.

By Kim Bo-gyung (