Cut the violence from sports

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Cut the violence from sports

The dark side of the sports world has resurfaced in the form of Park Chul-woo, an athlete with the national volleyball team who appeared at a press conference last week with bruises on his face and abdomen after a particularly severe beating from his coach.

Corporal punishment is common here and coaches regularly discipline their athletes this way ahead of major sporting events. When these incidents are made public, sporting associations scramble to reinforce regulations against bad behavior - and yet the paddling, striking and beating continue.

In this case, the Korea Volleyball Association tried to cover the incident up but finally took action and punished the coach. It also announced it would take steps to root out violence by screening coaches and conducting routine interviews with athletes. But this story is all too familiar, and actions like these are little more than a Band-Aid on the problem.

Athletes have long become accustomed to physical violence as part of sport in this country. An investigation by the National Human Rights Commission last year revealed that eight out of 10 student athletes had been physically or verbally threatened by their coaches or older teammates. Among them, 25 percent reported being struck more than once or twice a week, while 5 percent reported suffering from some form of violence on a daily basis. However, few are willing to complain for fear they would have to stop playing.

For many student athletes, sports remain their only ticket to college, as many struggle to keep up with their schoolwork alongside their busy training schedules. As evidence of this, short-track Olympic medalist Chun Lee-kyung once said that student athletes are more likely to fight against corporal punishment when they are not reliant upon sports for their education.

Education officials must address this problem. For example, they could reduce game schedules during the school year or implement a face-to-face or Internet counseling system.

They also need to punish the perpetrators more firmly. However, it will be even more important to educate sports officials about the effects of violence.

No amount of victory is worth it.
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