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Caught in the midst of a bullying scandal, South Korean volleyball twins Lee Jae-yeong and Lee Da-yeong controversially sign for Greek club

By Gawon Bae, CNN

Twin volleyball players from South Korea, Lee Jae-yeong and Lee Da-yeong, have completed a transfer to Greek club PAOK Thessaloniki, months after being dropped from their national and club sides following claims of bullying.

The twins enjoyed successful volleyball careers, representing South Korea in international competitions, until they were anonymously accused of bullying previous teammates at their school.

After the allegations surfaced in February, they publicly apologized on their Instagram accounts, which have since been deleted. Both also said that they wished to meet with their former schoolmates to apologize for their actions.

However, the twins said in a TV interview with Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) in July that they were suing the alleged victims for defamation because the claims included “lies and false information.”

Jae-yeong and Da-yeong were released by club side Incheon Heungkuk Life Insurance Pink Spiders in June when fans protested against the Pink Spiders’ attempt to register the sisters on the roster.

Fans sent trucks with mounted LED screens showing statements that read “Comeback of the school bullies that everyone except Heungkuk Life Insurance is against” to multiple locations, including the Heungkuk Life Insurance company headquarters in Seoul.

In February, the Pink Spiders had confirmed it would suspend the pair for an indefinite amount of time, while the Korea Volleyball Association (KVA) dropped them from the national team ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

With free-agent status, the sisters chose to continue their volleyball careers in Greece.

The players needed International Transfer Certificates (ITCs) issued by the KVA to transfer to an international club, but the association sternly refused, citing its own regulation which limits international transfers of those who have severely damaged the volleyball community or caused public controversy with “disgraceful acts.”

“We told Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) and the Greek team that we cannot agree with the [twins’] international transfer according to our regulation that players who caused public controversy cannot transfer internationally,” the KVA told CNN.

The KVA said it had received two messages from the FIVB asking for a bank account number to receive the solidarity fee from the twin sisters’ transfer.

When South Korean volleyball players transfer to an international club, the association receives 5% to 10% of the salary from the purchasing club.

“We didn’t provide our bank account information because we will not receive the fee,” the association said. “This is not a matter of money.”

As the KVA maintained its stance until the given deadline, the FIVB confirmed to CNN that it has officially issued ITCs for the twins “as per the procedures under the FIVB Sports Regulations that allow ITCs to be approved without the consent of the National Federation.”

The KVA also confirmed Jae-yeong and Da-yeong’s transfer to PAOK Thessaloniki. PAOK did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

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Turkish sports agency CAAN Sports Organisations described the move as “historic,” adding that the twins will be the first Korean female players to compete in the Greek A1 category.

However, one of the alleged victims said in a TV interview with Korean broadcasting station MBC on Tuesday that she felt powerless that the sisters are heading to Greece while the bullying scandal remains unresolved. Her face was not shown and her voice was altered to guard her anonymity.

The South Korean public also raged about the news. “Was it that difficult to apologize sincerely?” one wrote on Twitter.

“Can we just ban them from coming back? They’re running away without even apologizing for school bullying,” another fan wrote.

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