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Sports ministry seeks dismissal, probe of officials in triathlon abuse scandal

All News 11:36 August 28, 2020

SEOUL, Aug. 28 (Yonhap) -- In the fallout from an abuse scandal in triathlon, the South Korean sports ministry is demanding that officials at relevant organizations be sacked and probed by legal authorities.

The ministry said Friday it has also warned the president of the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee (KSOC), Lee Kee-heung, for his organization's poor handling of rampant abuse in triathlon. The ministry's announcement came following its investigation into the triathlon scandal, which surfaced in early July following the death of former Gyeonggju City Hall triathlete Choi Suk-hyeon.

The late South Korean triathlete Choi Suk-hyeon receives a gold medal at the 2013 National Maritime Sports Games in Ulsan, 400 kilometers southeast of Seoul, in these photos provided by Choi's surviving family on July 2, 2020. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The late South Korean triathlete Choi Suk-hyeon receives a gold medal at the 2013 National Maritime Sports Games in Ulsan, 400 kilometers southeast of Seoul, in these photos provided by Choi's surviving family on July 2, 2020. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Choi, who was found dead in her home in late June, alleged that her former head coach and teammates physically and verbally abused her. Since Choi's passing, her former teammates have stepped forward with their own allegations, leading to the arrests of the principal figures in the scandal.

The KSOC and the Korea Triathlon Federation (KTF) also caught flak for not acting on Choi's pleas for help earlier this year.

"Because the KSOC and other organizations failed to take proper steps in time, an athlete who needed help couldn't be saved," the ministry said in a statement.

In addition to warning Lee, the ministry is seeking the dismissal of KSOC's secretary general, Kim Seung-ho. It has asked legal authorities to launch an investigation into possible misconduct by three KTF officials.

The ministry has also relieved the head of its sports department of his duties.

The ministry's special task force, headed by the Second Vice Minister Choi Yoon-hee, interviewed some 30 officials from the KSOC, KTF and Gyeongju and studied related documents.

In this file photo from Aug. 5, 2020, South Korean triathlete Jang Yun-jung leaves the Daegu District Court in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, after attending a hearing over a request for an arrest warrant for her as part of an investigation into an abuse scandal. (Yonhap)

In this file photo from Aug. 5, 2020, South Korean triathlete Jang Yun-jung leaves the Daegu District Court in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, after attending a hearing over a request for an arrest warrant for her as part of an investigation into an abuse scandal. (Yonhap)

The ministry said it will empower the Sports Ethics Center, which opened on Aug. 5 with the task of ensuring transparency in sports and protecting athletes, with more investigative authority.

Choi said the ministry will seek to eliminate the "win-at-all-costs" mentality and address persistent human rights abuse in South Korean sports.

In this file photo from July 2, 2020, Kim Seung-ho (L), secretary general of the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee (KSOC), bows in apology over the death of South Korean triathlete Choi Suk-hyeon, who took her own life after enduring years of apparent abuse on her team, during a visit by Vice Sports Minister Choi Yoon-hee (R) at the KSOC headquarters in Seoul. (Yonhap)

In this file photo from July 2, 2020, Kim Seung-ho (L), secretary general of the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee (KSOC), bows in apology over the death of South Korean triathlete Choi Suk-hyeon, who took her own life after enduring years of apparent abuse on her team, during a visit by Vice Sports Minister Choi Yoon-hee (R) at the KSOC headquarters in Seoul. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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