|Vice Sports Minister Roh Tae-kang speaks during a briefing to announce a set of measures to stop sexual misconduct in sports at the government complex building in central Seoul, Wednesday. / Yonhap|
Sport ministry unveils plan to prevent sexual misconduct
By Kang Hyun-kyung
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism vowed Wednesday to stop sexual abuse in sports, unveiling a set of toughened measures against sex offenders.
Vice Sports Minister Roh Tae-kang hurriedly announced four measures to tackle sexual abuse, a day after Olympic gold medalist in short track speed skating Shim Suk-hee claimed her coach had sexually abused her for four years since she was a high school student.
"I apologize to the athlete, her parents and all citizens for being unable to prevent an incident like this and properly protect the athlete," Roh said at a news conference in Seoul. "The incident shows that the government's past efforts to stop sexual abuse in sports were ineffective in preventing them. We'll examine all related measures that are in place to draw up more effective measures."
Roh said those convicted of grave sexual assault cases will be banned from their sport for life.
Previously, people convicted of rape were banned from the sport for life; but under the new rule, those convicted of "serious sexual abuse" other than rape will also face the same ban.
Under the new rules, sex offenders will also be blacklisted and find it impossible to find jobs in sports teams or sports-related organizations at home and abroad.
Roh said the sports ministry will team up with the International Olympic Committee and national Olympic committees of other countries to impose employment bans on sex offenders.
The employment ban for Cho Jae-bum, who is facing fresh allegations of having sexually assaulted short track speed skater Shim since she was 17, will prevent him working with the teams of foreign countries. Cho was convicted of physically assaulting Shim over many years, and in September was sentenced to a 10-month jail term and put behind bars while he appealed to the high court.
Besides the employment ban, the sports ministry will also team up with the private sector, such as human rights experts and women's rights activists, to launch an investigation into sexual abuse in sports and draw up measures to better protect athletes.
"Under the current system, victims feel immense pressure when they confront sex offenders because their revelations of their traumatic experiences could have a heavy toll on their athletic career. Various factors make it harder for the victims to break their silence," Roh said. "We will also work on ways to prevent any secondary traumatization of the victims.
|Former national short track speed skating team coach Cho Jae-bum / Yonhap|
Short track speed skater Shim said her coach Cho repeatedly sexually assaulted her for four years from 2014 including while preparing for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Shim said the sexual assault took place several times in locker rooms at the Korea National Sport University and the Jincheon National Training Center, adding she was forced into silence as Cho threatened to end her athletic career if she ever tried to speak out.
She filed a lawsuit against Cho in December last year.
Cho, who is now serving a jail term, denied the allegation through his lawyer.
Police are investigating the sexual assault case.
It remains to be seen whether or not Shim's disclosure will have any impact on other possible victims speaking out about their own traumatic experiences.
In sports, North Korean defector Lee Kyung-hee, a coach of the national rhythmic gymnastics team, made public her suffering last year. In a JTBC investigative program, Lee gave tearful testimony about the traumatic experiences she had gone through for three years from 2011 to 2014. According to her, her unnamed boss raped her and repeatedly sexually assaulted her.
Despite this, compared with other fields, the sports world remained relatively silent last year when the #MeToo campaign swept the nation and brought down many celebrities and high-profile figures in show business and other fields.
Rep. Ahn Min-seok of the Minjoo Party said last year on a radio program that athletes would be the next possible whistleblowers.
"I think a flurry of #MeToo revelations will be made in sports, too," he said, noting that he had received many phone calls from victims in sports and they would now be motivated to speak out about the abuse.