Drunk driving again.
In 13 months, three K League players have been disciplined for drink-driving. In early July last year, Japanese midfielder Takahiro Kunimoto, then playing for Jeonbuk Hyundai, was caught drinking and driving. A day later, the Korean Professional Football Association (KPA) handed him a 60-day suspension from the K League. Kunimoto’s former club, Jeonbuk, terminated his contract four days after the drink-driving incident.
먹튀검증 Next up was Jonatan Moya. A key striker for FC Anyang and the league’s top scorer 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 handed him a 60-day ban from official K League matches, and Anyang released him after terminating his contract early.
About four months after Jonatan’s departure from South Korea, news broke that another foreign striker, this time Suwon FC’s Lars Veltvik, had been caught driving a car. Unlike the cases of Kunimoto and Jonatan, the federation handed Lars a 15-match suspension and fined him 4 million won. Lars will miss the rest of the season due to the suspension.
Unforeseen 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 for their lack of management. Jeonbuk and Anyang, who lost Kunimoto and Jonatan during the previous season, have also suffered major blows to their squads.
Kunimoto had been an integral part of the team since joining Jeonbuk in 2020, and had been performing well at the time of his controversial drink-driving incident. After losing Kunimoto during the season, Jeonbuk eventually finished 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 upward trend in the early part of this season. Since Jonatan’s departure, Anyang has struggled to stay in contention for the top half of the table thanks to the performances of other players such as Park Jae-yong and Andrigo, but have now slipped to 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 major power leak. 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, Lars is a big part of Suwon’s tactics. Having unexpectedly lost their main striker, Suwon FC will have to pick up the pieces and fight for relegation for the rest of the season. Lars is also expected to be released from his contract, as previous cases have illustrated.
Drink-driving a bigger problem, ‘abuse’ a concern
One of the things that comes up whenever the issue of drink-driving by foreigners in the K League comes up is that they are trying to exploit it. Korean sentiment makes it difficult 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 despite being a big part of the squad.
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 football. Jonatan signed with Hyderabad FC in the Indian Super League just three months after leaving Anyang. These cases have led to suspicions that foreigners are using drink-driving to leave their teams.
Suwon FC recognised this and did not immediately terminate Rath’s contract. “Based on the opinion that unconditional contract termination such as the recent cases of other clubs is not helpful in preventing future recurrence, 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 minimise the damage
There needs to be safeguards in place to minimise the impact on clubs. Realistically, the only safeguard is a fine.
“It is possible to add a penalty clause to the regulations. There is no upper limit to 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 can be a daunting prospect for the player signing the contract. However, the cases of Kunimoto, Jonatan, and Lars show that there are safeguards in place to minimise the damage to clubs.
Ultimately, it’s up to the K League clubs and the federation. “We are sympathetic to 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.”