Football body pays corrupt employee settlement over threat: source
The nation's governing body of football paid an employee suspected of embezzlement a large settlement after he threatened to disclose corruption within the agency, a source said Thursday.
According to the source, who is privy to matters at the Korea Football Association (KFA), the agency decided on Jan. 13 to pay the employee a settlement of 150 million won ($133,690).
The employee, identified by his surname A, was fired on Dec. 31, about a month after he was caught stealing football equipment from another office of the KFA, according to the source. Upon further investigation, the employee, who was in charge of KFA's accounting and finances since 2006, was suspected to have embezzled millions of won in KFA funds.
Under pressure to quit, the employee instead threatened to expose corrupt practices at the KFA, including the setting up of slush funds, the source said.
Despite orders from Cho Chung-yun, president of the KFA, to impose proper disciplinary measures, the KFA's disciplinary committee on Dec. 9 gave the employee a mere slap on the wrist. The committee decided to relieve him of duties for a week and to determine the level of punishment upon further review.
After a protest by the KFA's labor union, who charged the KFA leadership was being overly protective of the employee, the disciplinary committee convened four additional meetings and fired the employee at the end of the month. Officials said he embezzled 24.89 million won in 2009 and 2011.
According to one official, the employee converted reward points from the KFA's corporate credit card use into personal gift cards that he could use like cash.
"The KFA spends about 5 billion won a year with its corporate card," the official said. "The card company returns about 0.2 percent of purchases as rewards, and the employee used them personally."
The official said KFA employees have been kept in the dark about just how many reward points have been returned.
"We should press charges against the employee and get the money back," the official added. "Instead, we actually paid him to leave."
In 2011, the KFA operated on a 103.1 billion won budget, by far the largest among all local sports governing agencies.
Later Thursday, the KFA's labor union called for the resignation of the senior official who decided to pay the employee the settlement.
In a statement, the union said Kim Jin-kook, the KFA's executive director, should step down for "violating values for a transparent football administration."
"The official in charge of the KFA's administration should apologize to fans and the labor union for driving this situation to the precipice," the union said. "He should also explain himself about allegations that he was protecting the corrupt employee."
The union said the KFA essentially "encouraged corruption" by settling with the employee who allegedly committed illegal financial activities, rather than trying to hold the employee accountable for his actions.
The union added it is not yet considering filing charges against the employee.
At a press conference held later Thursday, Kim said he was not trying to let the employee off the hook.
"The employee returned the money that he misappropriated," Kim told reporters. "Considering his future and his contribution to the association to this date, the KFA held him accountable for attempted theft, but not embezzlement, and told him to leave."
Kim also said the employee wasn't technically fired but voluntarily resigned, and the sum of 150 million won amounted to severance pay plus two years' worth of wages. (Yonhap)