A man photographs an illuminated logo ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China January 26, 2022.
A man photographs an illuminated logo ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China January 26, 2022. Reuters / FABRIZIO BENSCH

South Korean police are investigating an alleged assault on a Chinese student in the southern port city of Busan, local media reported on Friday, amid growing anti-China sentiment over an Olympics skating race controversy.

The disqualification of two South Korean short track speed skaters at the Beijing Winter Games has provoked anger at home, with many comments on social media and from some politicians accusing the referees of penalising them to boost the host nation's chances of winning medals.

The Busan incident occurred on Wednesday night when an unidentified Chinese student was attacked by two Korean men, according to the Yonhap news agency.

A video posted by China's state-run Beijing Youth Daily on its Chinese social media WeChat account showed a man kicking another man sitting in a parking lot. The video was also widely circulated on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the video.

Police in Busan were unreachable for comment, but Yonhap said an initial investigation did not find any link to the Olympics controversy, quoting a police official as saying the assailants did not appear to have attacked the man because he was Chinese.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, when asked about the reports, said its consulate in Busan had reached out to the student to provide assistance while coordinating with local police.

"We will spare no efforts to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests and personal safety of Chinese citizens overseas," he told a briefing.

South Koreans were especially irked by the disqualification of world number 2 Hwang Dae-heon, who crossed the line first in the men's 1,000 metres semi-final on Monday but was penalised for a "late illegal pass causing contact". Chinese skaters advanced to the final and eventually secured gold and silver medals.

The Korean Sport and Olympic Committee said it would appeal. The International Skating Union, the sport's governing body, said in a statement posted on its website that the chief referee stood by the decision after a video review, and that protests were not allowed under competition rules.

The Olympics controversy has spilled over into a diplomatic spat, with Seoul's foreign ministry urging the Chinese embassy to exert "prudence" about releasing public messages.

The embassy had issued a rare statement on Tuesday expressing concerns over growing anti-China sentiment and accusing local media and politicians of stirring up public fury.