South Korean volleyball twins Lee Jae-yeong and Lee Da-yeong have been dropped from their national and club sides amid claims of teenage bullying.
The 24-year-old sisters, two of the country’s best known female athletes, have both apologized after being anonymously accused of bullying previous students at their school. In Jae-yeong’s apology she referred to “actions and images from her teenage years.”
Writing on her Instagram account, Da-yeong said she would reflect on herself “with deep regret on the traumas that the victims have.”
“I deeply apologize for speaking and behaving as a child that gave tough memories and scars to my teammates who I have sweated and played with during my teenage years,” she added.
Meanwhile, on her personal Instagram account, Jae-yeong wrote that she was “seriously sorry to those who had to suffer from my wrongful words and actions from my teenage years.”
“I will never forget the wrongful words and actions I have done and will become a more mature person,” she added.
Both said they wish to meet their previous schoolmates to apologize for their actions.
CNN has tried to contact the victims but has been unable to gain response as their posts about the bullying have been posted online anonymously.
In a now deleted post, an accuser wrote:
“Total of four victims are currently writing this, but there are more [victims]. We will not tell our ages. We are writing comprehensively to avoid identifying ourselves.”
“We thought of just moving on with things that’s happened 10 years ago, but when we saw the perpetrators’ social media post, not reflecting on their own past actions, we were reminded of the past memories and are writing, hoping that they would look back on themselves.”
The popularity of both women had given a boost to the sport’s reputation in the country, and the pair had played a major role in helping the South Korean women’s team qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
However, both have received a heavy backlash since the allegations emerged with over 120,000 people signing a petition to the Blue House, the residence of South Korea’s President, calling for an “national level investigation.”
The Korean Volleyball Association (KFA) released a statement on Monday which confirmed both sisters would be dropped from the national team ahead of this year’s Olympic Games.
“We decided that it will be difficult to prevent recurrence of similar cases if we don’t take tough actions against currently issuing school bullying cases,” read a statement.
“Therefore, considering the gravity of the situation, we will indefinitely rule out school violence perpetrators from the 2021 Volleyball Nations League, 2020 Tokyo Olympics and other national team player selection for all international competitions.”
The twins’ club, the Incheon Heungkuk Life Insurance Pink Spiders, also confirmed it would be suspending the pair for an indefinite amount of time.
“We apologize for the disappointment this situation has caused to those who love volleyball and feel a strong sense of responsibility,” read a statement.
“School bullying is something that should never happen and cannot be tolerated for any reason. The two players are thoroughly reflecting themselves by admitting the truth and apologizing.
“We also would like to apologize to the victims who suffered due to the players’ wrongful actions.”
CNN has attempted to contact the twins via the Pink Spiders but has not received a response.
The Korean Volleyball Federation (KOVO), the governing body for the professional competitions in South Korea, issued a statement on Tuesday that said it would “exclude players” involved in bullying and launched an initiative to eradicate violence in school.
“The Korean Volleyball Federation, as an organization that manages and operates the league, feels strong responsibility and would like to apologize to the victims and disappointed volleyball fans in regard to the recently issued bullying case involving professional players’ teenage years,” read the statement.
In recent years there have been a number of accusations of bullying in South Korean sport, notably following the suicide of a triathlete and a culture of abuse in South Korean speedskating.