Brief mischief prompts Korean suspension

SEOUL • A South Korean Olympic short-track medallist's sexual harassment of another male Games podium-finisher has resulted in the suspension of the entire team, officials said yesterday.

The older offender, who has not been identified, reportedly forcibly pulled down the younger victim's trousers, leaving him standing in his underwear in front of teammates at the national training centre in Jincheon.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the two men involved won medals at last year's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

Three skaters - Lim Hyo-jun, Hwang Dae-heon and Seo Yi-ra - won four medals in the men's events at their home Games.

Coaches punished the entire team of seven men and seven women and expelled them from the facility for a month, a Korean Sport & Olympic Committee official said.

"There had been a number of other cases of misbehaviour before this (in the short-track team), and that's one of the reasons why this decision was made," the official said.

SKATE TEAM AT THE STAKES

This incident goes beyond the two male athletes involved. We feel this is closely associated with the mindset and work ethic of the entire national short-track speed skating team.

KOREA SKATING UNION, on their self-imposed ban.

The Korea Skating Union (KSU) also confirmed in a statement yesterday that it would hold a disciplinary meeting next month to discuss possible penalties, adding: "This incident goes beyond the two male athletes involved.

"We feel this is closely associated with the mindset and work ethic of the entire national short-track speed skating team and its overall discipline."

This is the latest in a series of embarrassing off-field incidents to hit South Korean sports.

Mirroring the country's intensely competitive society, winning is considered to be virtually everything for its athletes - and physical and verbal abuse are known to be rife.

The short-track speed skating community, in particular, has faced several serious abuse scandals in recent years.

In January, double Olympic champion Shim Suk-hee went public with accusations that her former coach molested and physically abused her, while in February, male skater Kim Gun-woo was suspended for three months after trespassing into the female dorm at the Jincheon centre.

Another speed skater, Noh Seon-yeong, last year accused the KSU of forcing her brother Jin-kyu, a top medal contender for Sochi 2014, to continue training instead of seeking treatment for chronic pain.

He was later diagnosed with bone cancer and died in 2016 at the age of 23.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2019, with the headline 'Brief mischief prompts Korean suspension'. Print Edition | Subscribe