Tougher penalty sought for sex abuse in sport

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Tougher penalty sought for sex abuse in sport

The government and the ruling party agreed Thursday to push for the passage of bills aimed at rooting out sex abuse in the sports community next month and to toughen the punishment for perpetrators.

In a policy coordination meeting held at the National Assembly, lawmakers decided to handle the proposed revisions to laws on sports promotion and the prevention of sexual assault as soon as possible.

The agreement comes amid public uproar following the recent revelation of physical and sexual abuse cases in the sports sector.

“We have made it clear that the bills should be handled during an extraordinary parliamentary session in February,” Rep. Cho Jeong-sik, chief policymaker of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), told a press briefing.

The proposed bill on sports, if enacted, will require coaches to receive education on the prevention of violence and come up with measures to protect athletes’ rights.

Should coaches inflict any harm on or sexually abuse their athletes, the authorities will be able to suspend them, even before a final decision by a court, and seek permanent expulsion if needed.

The legislation on sex abuse seeks to extend the statute of limitations in civil damage suits and contains a special clause that would allow temporary suspension of the statute of limitations.

The move comes after Olympic short track champion Shim Suk-hee filed a complaint against her former coach, Cho Jae-beom, first on charges of physical violence, and then on sexual assault.

Shim claims Cho raped and sexually abused her multiple times from 2014, when she was a high school student, until late 2017.

Shin Yu-yong, a former judoka, has claimed she too was repeatedly sexually assaulted by her own former coach.

Participants at Thursday’s meeting stressed the need to overhaul brutal training practices intended to nurture elite athletes in order to root out corruption and physical abuse in the sports community.

Experts say such a training system, along with the “win at all cost” culture, make it harder for sex abuse victims to speak out about their experiences for fear of being dropped.

“In order to eradicate sexual assault and violence in the sports arena, there is a need to conduct a fundamental and comprehensive review of the training system that focuses on fostering elite athletes, as well as to break the cartel of silence,” Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said.

She said the government will thoroughly investigate suspected cases through the nation’s human rights watchdog and draw up measures to resolve the issue.

The government and the party agreed to set up a joint committee of private and public experts to reform the sports community.

The panel is expected to discuss ways to overhaul the elite sports system, protect athletes and draw up measures to curb corruption at sports organizations.

Rep. An Min-suk, chair of the parliamentary culture and sports committee, raised the need to hold a parliamentary hearing to delve into “Me Too” cases in the sports community.

He stressed that without reform of the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee (KSOC), the national sports body, it would be hard to anticipate fundamental changes in the sports community.

Rep. Sohn Hye-won, an independent lawmaker, recently called for a probe into Jun Myung-kyu, a former speed skating official, over alleged links to a sexual assault scandal involving ex-coaches. He has denied the allegations.

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