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S. Korea coach, captain praying for safe release of player held in China

By Yonhap

Published : June 19, 2023 - 19:38

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South Korea head coach Jurgen Klinsmann (left) and his captain Son Heung-min attend a press conference at Daejeon World Cup Stadium in the central city of Daejeon on Monday, the eve of South Korea's friendly football match against El Salvador. (Yonhap) South Korea head coach Jurgen Klinsmann (left) and his captain Son Heung-min attend a press conference at Daejeon World Cup Stadium in the central city of Daejeon on Monday, the eve of South Korea's friendly football match against El Salvador. (Yonhap)

The head coach and the captain of the South Korean men's national football team said Monday they are praying for a safe and quick release of Son Jun-ho, an international veteran placed under formal arrest in China.

"We all feel for Jun-ho. We all pray for him and his family that his situation gets resolved as quickly as possible," head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said at a press conference held on the eve of South Korea's match against El Salvador. "We hope that we get him back as soon as possible."

Klinsmann was commenting on the latest development surrounding Son in China. He was first detained in May on what Chinese officials have said are bribery charges, and once his detention period expired, security authorities placed Son under formal arrest, according to a source familiar with the case.

Once an arrest is approved, public security authorities typically take around two months to carry out a deeper investigation before taking steps for an indictment, the source said, though it could take longer in some cases. Son has been playing for the Chinese club Shandong Taishan since 2021.

South Korean consuls and football officials have been unsuccessful in their attempts to find out more information on Son's detention.

For the two friendly matches this month, Klinsmann still selected Son for the team in a show of support, hoping against hope that the 31-year-old would somehow be available for the occasion.

Klinsmann acknowledged Monday the situation "is not in our hands."

"We have no influence on Chinese authorities," he said. "I know the Korea Football Association is trying everything possible to solve the situation."

Captain Son Heung-min, also attending the presser, said he was as worried as anyone about Son Jun-ho, a close friend of his dating back years.

"We've always been in touch, and now, even if I send him texts, I don't get any response back," Son said. "It breaks my heart, and we don't really know exactly what's going on. There's nothing we can do but to pray for him and his family. I hope he can rejoin as soon as possible." (Yonhap)