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(LEAD) Ex-short track coach sentenced to 10 1/2 years in prison for sexual assault of athlete

All News 17:07 January 21, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in last 4 paras)

SUWON, South Korea, Jan. 21 (Yonhap) -- A former national short track speed skating coach was sentenced to 10 1/2 years in prison on Thursday on charges of sexually assaulting Olympic champion Shim Suk-hee.

The Suwon District Court convicted Cho Jae-beom of violating the Act on the Protection of Children and Juveniles against Sexual Abuse, saying his act is highly condemnable. Cho is accused of assaulting Shim for about three years until a few months before the country hosted the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

The court in Suwon, 45 kilometers south of Seoul, also ordered him to complete 200 hours of sexual offender treatment while banning him from working with children, youths and disabled people for seven years.

This file photo from Jan. 23, 2019, shows former national short track speed skating team coach Cho Jae-beom leaving a court in Suwon, 45 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

Cho was indicted in 2019 for allegations of sexually assaulting Shim on 30 different occasions at the Taereung National Training Center in northeastern Seoul, an ice rink at Korea National Sport University in southeastern Seoul, and five other places from August 2014 to December 2017. Shim, one of the country's most prominent winter sports athletes, was only 17 years old when she first became Cho's apparent victim.

In previous hearings, Cho denied the allegation and only admitted to verbal and physical abuse against Shim, which he claimed was intended for "discipline."

"The accused committed sexual assault by force, repeatedly using the victim's inability to protest against her speed skating coach for the national team," the court said, adding that he did not take any measures to get her forgiveness.

The court also noted that the victim suffered severe mental distress from repeated sexual assaults during her adolescence, when her sexual identity was being formed.

After the ruling, Shim's lawyer told reporters that the 10 1/2-year prison term is too lenient, considering the case's social impact and Shim's years of suffering, as well as related investigations and court hearings.

The prosecution had demanded a 20-year prison term for Cho.

In January 2019, Cho was sentenced to 18 months in prison on separate charges of physically abusing Shim on a regular basis. He now has to serve a total of 12 years in prison.


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