Hwaseong female skaters accuse former coach

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Hwaseong female skaters accuse former coach

Just days after members of Korea’s female curling team resigned, citing verbal abuse and sexual harassment by coaches, women of the short track speed skating team of Hwaseong city government reported to police that their former coach, surnamed Lee, sexually harassed them during training.

In response, the coach filed a countercharge accusing the skaters of libel. Park Seung-hi, who won two gold medals at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, is affiliated with the Hwaseong women’s team but not involved in the complaint.

The city government confirmed the situation Monday evening.

According to the complaint submitted to the Gyeonggi provincial police on March 20, the skaters said they were touched inappropriately and unnecessarily by the coach during training sessions, including pushing their buttocks, though the coach later claimed it was only to increase their speed.

The players also accused the coach of pouring ice down the inside of their uniforms and demanding that they act charming if they wanted to stay on the team.

An anonymous petition stating the allegations was submitted to the Hwaseong city government in April 2013. Skaters demanded an investigation, but no corroborating evidence was found. The city government instead advised the women to file a complaint with police.

Due to the incident, the city government didn’t renew Lee’s coaching contract when it expired earlier this year in accordance with internal regulations that found Lee failed to maintain his dignity as a coach.

Lee then filed a complaint against the skaters Feb. 5.

“They created false rumors about things that never happened,” Lee said in the complaint. “They made the city government investigate me and cost me my job.”

Olympic curlers Kim Ji-sun, Gim Un-chi, Shin Mi-sung, Um Min-ji and Lee Seul-bee announced yesterday they will return to the team to participate in a national selection match April 11.

They said last week they would quit the team run by the Gyeonggi provincial government, saying the coach used violent language during training and sexually harassed another curler.

The coach resigned this week, telling investigators he did not believe he was guilty of verbal abuse or sexual harassmenta.

Allegedly, when Shinsegae, a Korea Curling Federation sponsor, promised the team 70 million won ($65,446) following the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, the coach suggested that each curler donate 1 million won. Each player is supposed to receive 7 million won.

According to Hwang Jeong-eun, a spokeswoman for the Gyeonggi government, the coach also apparently berated two curlers who refused to comply with his demands.

BY KWON SANG-SOO [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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