Ssireum championship was fixed: Prosecutors

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Ssireum championship was fixed: Prosecutors

Prosecutors said they indicted two ssireum players for alleged match-fixing, dealing a blow to the traditional form of Korean wrestling that was already suffering from years of waning popularity and a lack of star players.

The Jeonju District Prosecutors’ Office indicted a 26-year-old rookie named Ahn Tae-min and 36-year-old veteran, Jang Jung-il, on charges that they had fixed the final match last January in the new year’s ssireum competition.

According to prosecutors, Ahn transferred between 10 million ($9,465) and 20 million won to Jang’s account via a third person before the match. Ahn and Jang competed against one another in the 90-kilogram (198-pound) weight class.

Jang, who had clinched seven previous championships, lost to Ahn, who had never won the championship, in the final round held last Jan. 22 in Gunsan, North Jeolla.

Ahn is also suspected of fixing the match that got him into the final round with Jang.

The prosecution said they are expanding the investigation to coaches and members of the Korea Ssireum Organization to see if they were involved in match-fixing. The fact that Ahn’s team, run by Jangsu County Office in North Jeolla, suddenly won a championship raised suspicions of team officials’ possible involvement.

“We are not ruling out a possibility that the ssireum organization was involved,” said a prosecutor involved in the investigation.

The prosecutor, however, said the match-fixing did not appear to have any connection with illegal sports betting sites on the Internet.

The Korea Ssireum Organization issued a formal apology to the public in the wake of the scandal.

The country’s four major professional sports - baseball, soccer, basketball and volleyball - have all had match-rigging scandals linked to illegal sports betting sites in recent years.


BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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