Drunk driving again.
In just 13 months, three K League players have been disciplined for drunk driving. In early July last year, Japanese midfielder Takahiro Kunimoto, then playing for Jeonbuk Hyundai, was caught driving drunk. A day later, the Korean Professional Football Association (KPA) handed him a 60-day suspension from the K League. Kunimoto’s former team, Jeonbuk, terminated his contract four days after the DUI incident.
Next up was Jonatan Moya. A key striker for FC Anyang and the league’s leading scorer in K-League 2 at the start of the season, Jonatan came under fire in April when he was found to have been drinking and driving. As with Kunimoto, the league suspended Jonatan from official K League games for 60 days, and Anyang released him after terminating his contract early.
About four months after Jonatan’s departure from South Korea, news broke that a foreign striker, this time Suwon FC’s Lars Veltvik, had been caught driving a car. Unlike the cases of Kunimoto and Jonatan, the federation suspended Lars for 15 games and fined him 4 million won. Lars will miss the rest of the season due to the suspension.
Unpredictable variables, and the impact on K League clubs
The damage caused by foreigners’ drunk driving has been and will be borne by the clubs themselves. The damage doesn’t stop with the clubs, who can barely manage the departure of individual players, posting apologies on social media after a drunk driving incident, citing lack of management. Jeonbuk and Anyang, who lost Kunimoto and Jonatan during the previous season, have also suffered major blows to their rosters.
Kunimoto had been an integral part of the team since joining Jeonbuk in 2020, and had been performing at a high level even before his controversial DUI. After losing Kunimoto during the season, Jeonbuk ended up finishing second, losing the title to Ulsan Hyundai.
Jonatan was a tough player to replace for Anyang. Jonatan’s presence was one of the reasons for Anyang’s early season surge. Since Jonatan’s departure, Anyang has struggled to stay in contention for the top spot, thanks to the play of other players such as Park Jae-yong and Andrigo, but they are currently in fifth place. With the departure of Park Jae-yong and Andrigo in the summer transfer window, Anyang can’t help but think of Jonatan.
Suwon FC will also have a big hole to fill. With nine goals and five assists this season, Lars is Suwon’s top scorer and the second most prolific offensive player in K League 1 behind Na Sang-ho (FC Seoul). Beyond his stats, Rath is a big part of Suwon’s tactics. After unexpectedly losing their star striker, Suwon FC will have to pick up the pieces and fight relegation for the rest of the season. Lars is also expected to be released from his contract, as previous stories have illustrated.
Drunk driving a bigger problem, ‘abuse’ a concern
One of the things that comes up whenever there is an issue of foreigners drinking and driving in the K League is that they are trying to exploit it. Due to Korean sentiment, it’s uncomfortable for K League clubs to keep players who have been drinking and driving, which can only lead to contract termination. This is why Kunimoto and Jonatan left the team, even though they were a big part of the power.
It’s the aftermath that’s troubling. Kunimoto found a new team within two weeks of being released from his contract with Jeonbuk. He even joined a team in the Portuguese Primeira Liga, the top division of Portuguese professional soccer. Jonatan signed with Hyderabad FC in the Indian Super League just three months after leaving Anyang. These cases raise the question of whether foreigners are using DUIs to leave their teams. 토토사이트
Suwon FC recognized this and did not immediately terminate Rath’s contract. “Based on the opinion that unconditional termination of contracts, such as the recent cases of other clubs, is not helpful in preventing future recurrences, we will once again hold the club’s squad management committee to make a final decision,” Suwon FC said, ruling out Lars’ immediate participation in training and matches.
The need for safeguards to minimize harm
There needs to be safeguards in place to minimize the damage to teams. Realistically, the safeguard is a penalty.
“It is possible to add a penalty clause to the regulations. There’s no cap on the amount. However, during the contract review phase, the federation can have some input if the penalty is set at an excessive level.”
It’s not easy for a club to include a penalty clause in a player’s contract. It’s not easy for clubs to include penalty clauses in their contracts. However, the cases of Kunimoto, Jonatan, and Lars show that there are safeguards in place to minimize the damage to clubs.
Ultimately, it’s up to the K League clubs and the federation. “We sympathize with the cases of abuse. We are not yet at the stage where there will be institutional changes, but we are looking for ways to prevent such cases from occurring.”