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After 10-month detention, China releases South Korean football star

Robert Besser
30 Mar 2024

SEOUL, South Korea: Son Jun-ho, a prominent South Korean soccer player detained in China for nearly a year over bribery suspicions, has been freed and returned home, Seoul's Foreign Ministry announced this week.

Son, a former South Korean national team member who played professionally in China, was apprehended by Chinese authorities at Shanghai airport in May 2023 on allegations of accepting bribes.

While the Foreign Ministry confirmed Son's return to South Korea, details regarding his exact return date and the status of the charges against him were not disclosed.

According to South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper, Son arrived back in South Korea on the afternoon of March 25.

Son had been associated with Shandong Taishan and contributed to the club's victory in the 2021 Chinese championship. Reports from the South China Morning Post last year suggested the bribery accusations were linked to suspected match-fixing involving the team's coach, Hao Wei.

The South Korean ministry stated, "We have been engaged in ongoing discussions with Chinese authorities through various channels to advocate for a prompt and equitable resolution for Son while maintaining close communication with his family in South Korea." It added that they had facilitated approximately 20 consular interviews with Son to ensure his access to legal assistance.

Son, 31, previously played for South Korea's Pohang Steelers and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors before signing a four-year contract with Shandong Taishan in 2021, as per He has represented South Korea on 18 occasions, including at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

China's soccer scene has long grappled with a tainted reputation for corruption, a challenge the country has been striving to overcome in recent years.

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