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Triathlete admits to assaulting late teammate, apologizes to family

All Headlines 20:42 July 09, 2020

DAEGU, July 9 (Yonhap) -- In an about-face, a triathlete banned for 10 years for allegedly assaulting a late teammate has admitted to his charges and apologized to the teammate's surviving family.

Kim Do-hwan, who's accused of abusing Choi Suk-hyeon while they were competing for the Gyeongju City Hall semi-pro club, visited a memorial park in Seongju, about 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Thursday to pay respects before an urn containing the remains of Choi Suk-hyeon.

In this photo, provided to Yonhap News Agency by a reader, triathlete Kim Do-hwan stands before an urn containing remains of his late teammate Choi Suk-hyeon to pay his respects at a memorial park in Seongju, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on July 9, 2020. Kim admitted allegations made earlier by Choi that he had physically assaulted her while they were teammates for Gyeonggju City Hall club. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Choi was found dead on June 26 after enduring years of alleged abuse from Kim and other members of the team. She had pressed assault charges against Kim, coach Kim Gyu-bong, another triathlete identified only as Jang, and team therapist Ahn Joo-hyeon. With the investigation moving slowly and her pleas to national sports authorities for help having fallen on deaf ears, Choi took her own life.

The circumstances that led to her death sparked a national outrage and exposed a culture of rampant abuse still rife in South Korean sports. The principal figures other than Ahn -- who was never on Gyeongju's payroll and hasn't been located since the scandal blew up -- were grilled at a parliamentary meeting Monday about the allegations, and all of them flatly denied those charges.

Kim Do-hwan, in particular, refused to apologize for Choi's death because he claimed he hadn't done anything wrong.

Later Monday, the Korea Triathlon Federation banned Kim Gyu-bong and Jang for life while slapping Kim Do-hwan with a 10-year ban.

In the ensuing days, though, he had a change of heart and said in media interviews that he had indeed assaulted Choi, and the coach and Jang had done the same. Kim also offered to fully cooperate with upcoming investigations.

Kim said he denied charges at the National Assembly because he didn't want to throw his coach and a senior teammate under the bus. But then he saw Choi's ex-teammates make additional allegations at a press conference and felt embarrassed about his behavior, which in turn prompted him to admit to assaulting Choi.

The city of Gyeongju and its regional sports association have both asked their regional prosecutors to charge the alleged abusers.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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