SKorea concerned over flag burning in taekwondo row

SEOUL, November 20, 2010 (AFP) - South Korea's foreign ministry expressed concern to Taiwan Saturday over the burning of its flag and boycotts of its products in a heated row over taekwondo at the Asian Games, local media said.

Taiwanese fighter Yang Shu-chun was disqualified from the Games on Wednesday for wearing extra sensors in her socks, sparking fury in her home island, where irate fans have blamed South Korean judges for kicking her out.

"The disqualification of Yang Shu-chun at the Games is regrettable, but there is a need to pay attention to the burning of South Korean flags and boycotting of products that are spreading across the island," the ministry said in a statement quoted by South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

The ministry said it had passed the message to Taiwan via its representative office there, asking them to "if necessary express regret over the anti-South Korean sentiments that have erupted in the past few days", Yonhap said.

It added the sporting controversy was unrelated to South Korea but should be investigated if necessary.

Television footage showed a man burning a South Korean paper flag in a Taipei street after medal hopeful Yang was banished, while hundreds of thousands joined Facebook groups protesting her treatment.

Some of her fans argued for a boycott of all things South Korean, including electronic products, food and television dramas.

"Let's boycott both China and South Korea. They are the top two gold medal winners and they probably pulled that off by cheating," said one message on the social networking site.

Korean restaurants in Taiwan have already seen their business suffer, according to the Apple Daily newspaper.

Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou joined the fray by calling for an investigation into Yang's treatment, while she argued her socks were within the rules.

But Taiwan's foreign ministry called for restraint Saturday, saying in a statement that it urged "the public to peacefully and rationally express their opinions as this incident did not involve the South Korean government and people".

It added that it has requested police to provide security for South Korean schools in Taiwan and the country's representative office.

The Asian Taekwondo Union on Saturday refused to apologise over the fracas.