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Emotions high as Jang, Chun controversy lingers

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PHOENIX – If Ha Na Jang wins the JTBC Founders Cup this week, she won’t be unveiling any celebratory moves.

Jang’s Beyonce victory dance after winning the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore 10 days ago created a backlash in South Korea that has inflamed a controversy that continues to linger between Jang and reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion In Gee Chun back in their homeland.

Jang wiped away tears Tuesday at the Founders Cup after explaining how she didn’t intend to offend anyone with the dance and that she is remorseful over circumstances that have pitted her against Chun in a Korean media firestorm.

“For now, Ha Na is keeping to the position that she doesn’t want to comment further,” said an LPGA spokesman helping Jang translate.

Upon returning to South Korea after winning the HSBC Women’s Champions, Jang learned her celebratory dance offended Chun supporters, who were upset over an incident before the tournament began, a mishap where Jang’s father lost control of a 15-pound travel bag that went crashing down an escalator at Singapore’s Changi airport. The bag hit Chun in the lower back, causing injuries that led Chun to withdraw from the HSBC Champions and this week’s Founders Cup.

The controversy worsened with Jang’s victory in Singapore moving her into the four-player South Korean Olympic team mix and bumping Chun out.

Jang said she only did the Beyonce dance to live up to a promise she made to Singapore media who asked before the event started if she had something special planned if she won. Jang said she made the promise unaware how serious the Chun incident had become.

Jang politely tried to address media questions in Phoenix Tuesday without violating a pledge she made to Korean media that she wasn’t going to comment further.

“She’s not ready to make a statement,” said Sean Pyun, the LPGA official acting as a translator for Jang and her manager, Pyungi Kim. “She’s trying to be sensitive to the Korean media, to In Gee and Ha Na’s father.”

Jang told Pyun that she didn’t think it would be fair to comment with Chun not here this week.

Jang did say the backlash over her celebration hurt her.

“Now every day crying in my room, last night, last week,” Jang said before enlisting a translator to help convey her concerns. “A lot happening in Korea, big issue.”

Jang made an apology to Chun when she met with media upon returning to South Korea last week. Korean media originally reported Jang’s father, Chang Ho, apologized immediately after the incident. Chun later issued a statement saying there were shortcomings in the apology but she wanted to calm the furor.

“Ha Na Jang and her father are two of the players and players’ fathers who have the most respect from a lot of people in golf, and who are loved by them,” Chun said in the statement translated from Korean to English. “Regardless of the shortcomings in delivering apologies, and consolations directly to me and my family, I still believe the excessive speculations and the provoked criticism from current issues should not result in their mental wound and stresses.

“I hope to meet them soon and would like to have an opportunity to share with them my thought on how my family and I were hurt. At the same time, I would like to show my sympathy and console their heart and soul sincerely if I could. Many fans of Ha Na Jang's must have felt greatly hurt and low. I would also like to express my sincere consolation wholeheartedly to them, and I would like to ask them to continue to support Ha Na Jang for her continued top performance at the tournaments to come. I will do my best to rebuild the relationship with her and her family in a very positive direction and meet the expectations from everyone who loves golf.”

Chun’s management team said an orthopedic specialist’s MRI and ultrasound tests revealed injuries to Chun’s lumbar muscles, sacroiliac joint and pelvis. Doctors told Chun she would need two weeks to recover. Chun’s team says she has been undergoing heat-acupuncture therapy and other treatment.