China releases South Korean soccer star after a nearly 1-year detention over bribery suspicions

Mon, Mar 25, 2024
Soccer News (AP)

China releases South Korean soccer star after a nearly 1-year detention over bribery suspicions

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - A star South Korean soccer player who was detained and investigated in China for nearly a year over bribery allegations has been released and returned home, Seoul's Foreign Ministry said Monday.

Son Jun-ho, a former member of the South Korean national team who had played professionally in China, was detained by Chinese authorities at the Shanghai airport in May on suspicion of taking bribes.

The Foreign Ministry confirmed that Son was back in South Korea but didn't provide further details, including when he returned or whether the charges against him were proven.

South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper, citing anonymous sources, reported that Son returned Monday afternoon.

Son had played for Shandong Taishan and won the 2021 Chinese championship with the Jinan-based club. Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post reported last year that the bribery allegations concerned suspected match-fixing involving the team's coach, Hao Wei.

"We have been communicating with Chinese authorities through various channels to request their cooperation in ensuring a fast and fair process (for Son) while also communicating closely with his family in South Korea," the South Korean ministry said in a statement. It said it had conducted about 20 consular interviews with Son to provide assistance and ensure fair access to lawyers.

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Son, 31, played seven seasons with South Korea's Pohang Steelers and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors before joining Shandong Taishan in 2021 on a four-year contract, according to industry website transfermarket.com. He has played for South Korea 18 times, including the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Chinese soccer has struggled for years to rid itself of a reputation for corruption.

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