It’s time to clean house in the Korean sports scene

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It’s time to clean house in the Korean sports scene

It has grabbed us by the throat, kicked us in the personal area and knocked our socks off.
What has? Our own ignorance and reluctance to clean house. But Kim Un-yong, don of the taekwondo world, guru of Korea’s international sports affairs, has finally been imprisoned on charges of embezzlement and other dark adventures.
But first we need to calm down. Yes, our country has lost some influence on the international sports stage. And yes, taekwondo’s days might be numbered as an official sport at the Olympics ... but trust me, it’s all gooooooood!
Let’s pray Kim has really said goodbye to the taekwondo world because as I said earlier, this man has the endurance of cycling champ Lance Armstrong to come back from scandals.
This time our legal system and the inevitable politics involved when dealing with figures like Kim should see the good in actually handing out severe punishment befitting the alleged crimes committed by Kim, because what he is accused of doing is a C-R-I-M-E!
Our endless chain of corrupt politicians milking money may have conditioned us to see Kim’s alleged deeds as no big deal. But no, we have to realize that being a vice president of the International Olympic Committee requires the highest moral standards. We are talking global standards here.
What worries me most is the history of our country being soft on culprits. The bigger the names, the worse it seems.
Kim’s case could well become one that reflects the fate of our own class of dictators, with the only difference being that he hasn’t killed anyone.
We had military dictators that at the height of their power nobody would dare to challenge. Any misgivings were seldom expressed publicly, and when they were uttered in private, it was done looking over one’s shoulder.
Numerous people died during the Gwangju massacre in 1980, yet Mr. Chun, the ex-dictator responsible for it, is playing badminton in Yeonhui-dong, living comfortably under the protection of our own government.
I still vividly remember that until earlier last year, people in the taekwondo community were extremely careful about voicing their opinion. One taekwondo official told me that one day, when the time was ripe, he would tell me much more. Perhaps that day has come sooner than he imagined.
The only official that was happy to open his mouth was Koo Cheon-seo, the then-head of the Korea Taekwondo Association. Mr. Koo was imprisoned at the end of last year for having hired thugs to prevent elections at the association.
So what will be the government’s call on Mr. Kim? Are we going to say that in light of his contributions to our country, such as promoting the 1988 Olympics, he deserves a pardon if he’s found guilty? Are we going to say his old, fragile body can’t withstand a prison cell?
It’s maddening because if he does go to prison, next year’s Lunar New Year holiday looks like an awfully likely time for his release for “health reasons.”
What credibility and good image we might have gained from hosting the Olympics and the World Cup just received a big setback. And who else is there to blame but ourselves?
Consider that many countries have been complaining about the refereeing in international taekwondo competitions for years, while young college students and old masters of taekwondo all knowingly talk about the corruption inside Korea’s taekwondo community.
For now, we have to suck it up and make sure that we send a very strong message.
And that should be only the beginning.

by Brian Lee
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