KPFA Wins Important Case 11

Korean player union reverses violation of players’ human rights

28 December 2021

Players in South Korea can no longer be transferred to other clubs without their consent and do not automatically have to give their image rights exclusively to their club and the league.

Last week, the Korea Fair Trade Committee (KFTC) decided to nullify articles in the standard player contract of the Korea Professional Football League as these violated the basic human rights of players.

“The K-League has no other option than to adjust the articles,” said Hoonki Kim, Secretary General of the Korea Pro-Footballer’s Association (KPFA). “We are currently waiting for the official release of the revised standard player contract.”

The KPFA expects that the adjusted articles will not allow clubs to decide unilaterally about player transfers, and will also not grant clubs and the league the ‘exclusive’ image rights of the players.

“This result will strengthen the rights of professional players,” said KPFA President Keun-Ho Lee. “We expect a decrease in disputes regarding player contracts. This is something to celebrate, but there is still more to achieve. Many players in Korea are still experiencing unilateral contract termination and pay cuts despite multi-year contracts. The KPFA will not back down and strive to increase leverage for the players."

In January 2020, the player union had asked the KFTC to examine two clauses in the standard player contract that they considered to be violating player rights. The clauses concerned:

The player granting the club and the league the exclusive usage of their image rights.

The transfer system allowing the club to execute transfers without player consent.

The KFTC decided that these clauses were illegal, however it did not decide to impose any sanctions as the K-League revised the aforementioned articles. These revisions were directed by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and will be released soon.

“We fought hard with the Ministry to bring changes to these regulations,” said Kim.

FIFPRO provided the Korean union with data and precedents that were crucial in preparing for the case, said Kim. “The KPFA thanks FIFPRO for its continuous support and cooperation.”