South Korean Corruption in Sports Industry

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Corruption in South Korea's Sports Industry

Corruption is a widespread plague in many countries including those that are most developed. It does emanate from business transactions and government transactions. In business transactions, corruption has the chance to be beneficial since both transacting parties gain. On the other hand, government corruption rarely yields positive outcomes since it derails the progress of the economy. The issue increases threshold revenues, it raises costs and diverts public funds (Melese, 2008). The cases of venal practices prevail because of the high power that politicians possess in the government. In South Korea, the instances of fraud have been rampant. High profile cases have been there including that of the Samsung heir and the former president Park Geun-Hye convicted on corruption scandals (Doucette, 2017). It is evident that power in South Korea is in the hands of politicians and business moguls. In the case of Samsung's heir, Lee Jae-Yong, it became apparent that business moguls and politicians in South Korea are frequently involved in corrupt dealings (Sang-Hun, 2017). The corruption scandals portray an unethical culture that has dominated many areas of the South Korean economy. The Sports industry being a recreational avenue should have been devoid venal practices. That is not the case since the unveiling of the match-fixing tendency in the Korean Professional League, K-league. Over one in ten players were involved in match-fixing and thus downgrading the value of the league. The scandal was an expose into the corrupt culture in the Korean Sports industry. In 2002 similar allegations of corruption had emerged when South Korea hosted the world cup and it had advanced to the semi-finals amidst criticism of official match favoritism. Similar instances have also appeared in the 2018 winter Olympic in Gangneung after it won the short track relay upon the disqualification of China (Harris, 2018).


The South Korean Sports industry is widely affected by corruption. The bribery culture was evidenced in the K-League. In international competitions, South Korea always seems to advance under controversial circumstances especially when the games are held in the country. In essence, the corruption culture still prevails over sportsmanship when organizations, governments, and individuals have financial gains. The culture is further encouraged when influential people in South Korea are involved in sport industry. To stop the impunity of such processes as bribes, high remunerations for the dilution of power is necessary to eliminate the sport corruption culture.


The power and influence are the key drivers of corruption in the South Korean Sports industry. South Korea has a clear-cut culture that requires total obedience from the elders and those that are in power. It is difficult for the young sportsman to resist the commands of their superiors even when they are unethical. It is also complicated for people to fight for justice and confront corrupt needs of those in power. The managers of companies and politicians can openly engage in these illegal actions with little resistance from their subordinates. Park Yong-Sung was convicted of corruption as chairman of the Doosan conglomerate but still managed to become the chairman of the Korean Olympic Committee. Such instances are a clear indication that venal practices are not resisted in South Korea especially when it involves power and influence. Therefore, sport industry is coupled with cases of corruption since it is run by influential individuals. One way of eliminating fraud is to reduce the involvement of the rich and powerful. The South Korean government can take center stage in managing sport industry.

The Role of Institutional Powers

The corruption is prevalent due to institutional powers that control sport industry. In the 2002 World Cup, Japan and South Korea co-hosted the event. It was held despite the logistical strain for fans who moved between the two countries. Controversies emerged after match officials had made decisions that favored the South Korean team (Magee, 2017). One of them was later charged with corruption by FIFA. In the event, FIFA was accused of favoring the host countries in the game. When global institutions are involved in corruption, it becomes easy for fraud to prevail in the South Korean industry. One of the most common international corruption scandals is on the determination of FIFA World Cup hosting countries. It was revealed that high incidents of corruption were evidenced in awarding the right to Qatar (Becker, 2013). That situation has opened the possibility that corruption might have influenced the South Korean hosting of the 2002 World Cup. The fraud in the international and local organization, therefore, has affected the integrity of the South Korean Sports Industry. Laws and regulations have to be established to eliminate the instances of institutional corruption.

The Influence of Low Incomes

The low incomes are another major factor that encourages the instances of corruption in the Korean Sports industry. The members of the K-League cited financial motives as the critical incentives to the match-fixing scandal (Chou, 2011). The players are often paid low wages and thus are less likely to perform. Sportsmen participate in corruption incidents as they have little concern for risk. When they are at the court, they only lose their low-paying job but when they are not caught they gain extra revenues to supplement their meager salaries. The performance in international events seems to be less fixed for South Koreas since there is more money and glory involved. Those that participate in the World Cup competitions and the Olympic games become national icons and receive significant compensation. The local sports personalities are, however, coupled with less glory and even lesser financial compensation. Their loss in a match-fixing event will not affect their salaries or nutritional status, so the representatives are willing to forfeit matches for financial gain. One major approach to eliminate the corruption incidents is to increase the salaries for the players. It will discourage unethical activities because the player risks to lose the salary (Melese, 2008). Sportsmen will also avoid match-fixing incidents as they will be less enticed by the extra revenues.


The prevalent unethical behavior in South Korea is evidenced in the frequent corruption incidents in the sport industry. The main reasons for this prevalence in South Korean sports are the involvement of the rich and powerful, internal government illegal arrangements, and the low wages of the athletes. Corruption can, however, be eliminated through more government involvement than private involvement in the sport industry. Regulations should be established to limit the influence of institutions and individuals on the sports of the country. The final approach is to increase the salaries of the sportsman to eliminate the financial motive for unethical behavior. The South Koreans need to liquidate the culture of corruption at all levels. The blind obedience to the superiors has to stop when it involves unethical commands. The sport industry will only achieve its desired heights internationally when the incidents of corruption get eliminated. The South Korean citizens and the government have to unify efforts to achieve a full cultural shift in a society full of integrity.


Becker, R. J. (2013). World Cup 2026 now accepting bribes: A fundamental transformation of FIFA’s World Cup bid process. The International Sports Law Journal, 13(1-2), 132-147.

Chou, S. (2011, July 13). In South Korean sports, a culture of corruption. New York Times. Retrieved from

Doucette, J. (2017). The occult of personality: Korea's candlelight protests and the impeachment of Park Geun-hye. The Journal of Asian Studies, 76(4), 851-860.

Harris, B. (2018). South Korea wins penalty-filled 3000 relay in short track. Retrieved from

Magee, W (2017, July 18). How the 2002 world cup became the most controversial tournament in recent memory. Vice Sport. Retrieved from

Melese, Francoise (2008). Corruption. The Concise Encyclopaedia of Economics 2nded. Retrieved from

Sang-Hun, C. (2017). Lee Jae-Young, Samsung heir, is arrested on bribery charges. The New York Times. Retrieved from

August 21, 2023

Government Crime

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