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South Korean protest player finally gets soccer medal

SEOUL (Reuters) - The South Korean soccer player who inflamed a diplomatic row with Japan by waving a political placard at the London Olympics is finally set to receive his bronze medal.

Park Jong-woo, banned from the medal ceremony at Wembley, has received a certificate confirming he would receive it, the Korea Football Association (KFA) said on Wednesday.

The midfielder held up a sign referring to a territorial dispute between South Korea and Japan while celebrating a 2-0 win over their fierce rivals in the Olympic bronze medal match.

The placard, which read "Dokdo is our territory", sparked further controversy following a surprise visit to the islands, known in Japan as Takeshima, by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak before the match in August.

Park was handed the sign by a fan but his actions prompted soccer's world governing body FIFA to open disciplinary proceedings against him.

However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has finally signed off on his medal.

"The Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) handed over the certificates to the KFA on Tuesday," the KFA told Yonhap news agency. "Park Jong-woo's certificate was included."

FIFA has yet to reach a decision on his case.

The KFA described Park's act as "impulsive" but stopped short of apologising to their Japanese counterparts, while South Korean military officials called him "courageous".

Park was granted exemption from military service with his team mates for their bronze medal showing in London.

The disputed islands, controlled by South Korea but also claimed by Japan, lie equidistant from the two countries and are believed to contain frozen natural gas deposits potentially worth billions of dollars.

(Reporting by Alastair Himmer in Tokyo; Editing by John O'Brien)

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