South Korean prosecutors indicted the local chief of a Russian martial arts agency for fraud Monday after he allegedly used the publicity rights of Fedor Emelianenko,
the famed Russian mixed martial arts fighter, without consent.
Emelianenko filed the suit early this month over a "shoddy" honey commercial that went on air on Korean cable television featuring his image. The world heavyweight champion sought 1.55 billion won ($1.6 million) in compensation from the president of Korea Sambo Federation and the head of a local apiculture agency whose honey product the commercial promoted.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office charged that the local Sambo chief, whose name could not be identified because he is on trial, received 22 million won from the advertisers in 2006, claiming that he owned the exclusive right to locally use Emelianenko's identity for commercial promotion. He was only entitled to a one-year negotiation right with Emelianenko and was yet to sign the real contract granting him the fighter's publicity, prosecutors said. The man was indicted without physical detention, said Lee Tae-gwan, a prosecutor in charge of the case.
The beekeeper agency chief was not indicted.
The 19-second commercial starts with a victorious scene of Emelianenko in a wrestling ring, followed by footage of a bee landing on a yellow rape flower. Then the image of a plain, expressionless Emelianenko returns, as he drinks a bottle of the honey and says " Seonyu Honey is good."
In the complaint, his representative said, "Fedor is the sports star who commands the image of being the strongest fighter in the world... The defendants damaged Fedor's image by producing commercials that do not fit his powerful image and were made with shoddy footage."
Besides the compensation, his representative asked the advertisers to run an apology in mass-circulation newspapers in South Korea. (Yonhap)