S. Korea gets tough on abusive sports coaches

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea on Tuesday unveiled measures aimed at protecting athletes from violent coaches, as a survey showed physical and mental abuse was widely accepted in both amateur and elite sports circles.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced a principle of "zero tolerance" for coaches caught beating athletes to force them to train harder.

A nationwide database will be created to track coaches' disciplinary records, and sports governing bodies will be obliged to use independent experts for probes into abuse cases.

Any organisations that fail to abide by the guidelines face losing their government grants.

A recent survey of 898 athletes, 85 parents and 66 coaches showed a high incidence of abuse - including slapping and caning - in South Korean sports.

Nearly 30 per cent of athletes said they had been beaten by coaches, and 9.5 per cent said they were sexually abused.

But the study also uncovered a high level of tolerance among the victims.

Around 23 per cent of athletes said they believed physical abuse was a necessary motivating tool in improving their performance.

And 47 per cent of parents said they knew their children had been hit but decided not to report the cases because they felt the methods were justified.

In 2004 six South Korean women speed skaters fled the national team training centre, complaining that they were habitually beaten by their coach.

Last year the sports ministry interviewed all South Korea athletes who took part in the London Paralympic Games, after one of them claimed he was beaten several times by his coach. The coach was consequently suspended for life.