Fresh corruption scandal hits South Korea football

SEOUL: South Korea's K League apologised on Friday after it suspended two referees amid a prosecution investigation into allegations they accepted money from a club official to influence games.

"We have disappointed you gravely," K League President Kwon Oh-gap told fans on the league's website.

"We are actively cooperating with the prosecutors' investigation to resolve the suspicions. We suspended the two referees under investigation from all games this month."

Kwon said the league would decide whether to impose sanctions after the prosecution completed its investigation.

An official from Busan District Public Prosecutor's Office told Reuters on Friday that the allegations relate to an investigation involving Ahn Jong-buk, the former president of Gyeongnam FC, who are based in the southern part of Korea.

The team were relegated from the top division at the end of last season.

The official confirmed that Ahn was arrested in October on corruption and embezzlement allegations related to his role at the club from 2013-14.

"During the investigation, prosecutors uncovered evidence that Ahn many have approached referees," the official said.

Five people had been called in for questioning since October including the two referees, who were then arrested on Thursday evening, the official confirmed.

Local media said the referees were paid tens of thousands of dollars to award favourable decisions to Gyeongnam.

Gyeongnam declined to comment on the issue while an official from the Korea Football Association said: "Just as the K League said in their official statement, we will cooperate throughout the investigation."

South Korean football was almost brought to its knees in 2011 when some 50 players were arrested in relation to attempts to fix matches, leading the government to threaten to shut down the league unless it cleaned up its act.

Forty-one players were handed lifetime bans from all football activity due to the scandal.