The J-League on Tuesday announced a four-game suspension for Sagan Tosu defender Kim Min-hyeok for a violent act committed during Friday night’s league match at Kashima Antlers.
The former Hamburger youth academy product was widely criticised by fans and fellow players alike after replays showed him pull down Antlers midfielder Mu Kanazaki on the sideline before stamping at the downed player’s face. Kim was shown a caution following the play in reaction to the initial hold.
Following a review of video evidence, the stomp was determined to be “exceedingly malicious conduct overlooked by the referee” by the J-League’s disciplinary committee, who decided to suspend Kim for two J1 League matches and two J-League Yamazaki Nabisco Cup matches.
Footage of the incident spread throughout social media over the weekend, but criticism of Kim’s conduct took a dark turn as many Japanese netizens focused on the player’s South Korean nationality.
“Unforgivably dirty Korean football player,” the uploader of one video wrote in English. The clip has amassed nearly one million views on YouTube as of this article’s publication.
“I understand why Korea is hated all over the world,” another commenter added.
Sagan Tosu goalkeeper Akihiro Hayashi responded to the incident and its reactions in a blog entry posted on Monday night.
“[Kim’s actions] were unnecessary, and I’m not going to defend them,” Hayashi wrote. “But is it necessary to say that it’s because he’s South Korean?
“I never want to see a play like this again, but I don’t want to see comments like these either.
“We have a long season ahead of us and I hope we can all work together to turn it into something positive.”
Following the ruling, Sagan Tosu published an apology to Kashima Antlers Kanazaki, and J-League officials.
“We take this ruling seriously and know that we must dedicate ourselves to observing the league ideal of fair play,” the statement read. “We will take steps as a club to prevent an incident of this nature from occurring again.”
Kim, a member of South Korea’s 2014 Asian Games-winning side, received just three cautions in 27 appearances for Sagan in his rookie 2014 season.