S.Korea’s top sports body apologises for sex assault cases

Korean Sport and Olympic Committee President Lee Kee-heung bows in apology for the ‘systematic flaw’ that failed to prevent repeated sexual misconduct in Seoul. (AFP pic)

SEOUL: The head of South Korea’s top sports body Tuesday apologised for a litany of sexual assault cases between young athletes and their coaches and vowed to impose lifetime bans on offenders.

The move comes after double Olympic short track gold medallist Shim Suk-hee accused her former coach last week of raping and sexually molesting her multiple times, prompting several other victims to come forward.

Korean Sport and Olympic Committee (KSOC) President Lee Kee-heung apologised for the “systematic flaw” that failed to prevent repeated misconduct.

“I will root out the coaches who try to manipulate the future of our athletes and use their status to commit unfair actions,” Lee said.

“I will impose a lifetime ban on sexual offenders and completely block them from local and overseas recruitment,” he added.

South Korea is a regional sporting power and regularly in the top 10 medal table places at summer and winter Olympics.

But in an already intensely competitive society, winning is everything in its sports community – where coaches hold immense sway over athletes’ careers, and physical and verbal abuse are known to be rife.

In addition, the country remains socially conservative and female sex crime victims can face public shaming.