2014 sports event moved possibly to please Yoo-ra

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2014 sports event moved possibly to please Yoo-ra

An allegation has been raised that Choi Soon-sil, accused of meddling in state affairs via President Park Geun-hye, her longtime friend, may have had a hand in the sudden change of location for the 2014 National Sports Festival’s equestrian competition from Jeju Island to Incheon, despite the fact that Jeju spent billions of won to build an equestrian sports ring on the island.

Just two weeks before the National Sports Festival in 2014, the Korea Equestrian Federation (KEF) requested SL Corporation, which builds ecological parks in landfills, to host the equestrian competition of the sports festival at its park in Incheon.

At the time, the government of Jeju had spent 6 billion won ($5.24 million) to build an equestrian sports ring on the island.

Despite this, the KEF announced on Oct. 18, 2014, 11 days before the equestrian competition, that Incheon’s Dreampark arena would be the location for the competition.

Members of the Minjoo Party of Korea requested an investigation into the matter as Choi’s friend, an official at KEF, was influential in the decision to host the equestrian competition in Incheon, where Choi’s daughter was used to competing.

Choi’s daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, won a gold medal in the team equestrian competition at the 2014 Asian Games, held at the sports ring in Incheon.

“The KEF changed the location of the equestrian competition without seeking agreement from the Jeju government,” the Jeju provincial government said in opposing the KEF’s decision at the time.

“The equestrian sports ring of Jeju had facility problems, and so the KEF decided to change the competition’s location to Incheon,” said a KEF official. “The decision in selecting the arena in Incheon was reached because the arena had just hosted the Asian Games and was ready to host another one. There was no external pressure to change the location to Incheon.”

Still, according to an official of SL Corporation, external pressure did exist.

“The Jeju provincial government filed a request to SL Corporation to reject KEF’s request to host the competition at the arena in Incheon, 8 days before the competition,” said an SL Corporation official. “So SL Corporation sent a statement to KEF to discuss the matter with the provincial government, but then we received incessant requests from the Korean Sports Olympic Committee, which oversees all National Sports Festivals, to accept KEF’s request.”

In the 2014 National Sports Festival of Jeju, cycling, shooting, boat racing and finswimming competitions were held outside Jeju, but this was only because the island did not have the respective sports rings and arenas for the events.

Jeju provincial government last year filed a lawsuit against KEF and Korean Sports Olympic Committee, requesting compensation worth some 570 million won.

A local court ultimately ruled in favor of Jeju, requesting that the defendants pay the Jeju provincial government a total of 184.44 million won in compensation. But KEF has since lodged an appeal.

Chung did not win any medal at the National Sports Festival’s dressage competition, coming in sixth among 26 dressage athletes.

BY CHOI MO-RAN, CHOI CHOONG-IL [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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