KSOC officials slam gov’t response to reports of assault
With the sports community reeling from the controversy involving high-profile figures, the government has announced a series of reform measures to vanquish violence in sports.
But sports administrators and other officials said Thursday that the government and the Sports Ministry, in particular, came up with proposals without any prior discussions with them.
They also claimed the Sports Ministry is only pointing the finger at sports officials, rather than sharing responsibility for the crisis and working together to come up with sound and reasonable measures.
On Jan. 25, Sports Minister Do Jong-hwan said the government will overhaul Korea’s elite sports system, and that it will consider dividing up the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee (KSOC) to ensure a balanced growth of elite sports and recreational sports. Presently, the KSOC oversees both areas.
The latest board of directors meeting at the KSOC on Thursday ended up being a rally for sports administrators, who took shots at the government for its unilateral announcement.
One KSOC official said there’s little to be gained by splitting the KSOC.
“It only looks like the government is pressuring KSOC President Lee Kee-heung to resign,” the official said, on condition of anonymity.
Another sports official said the government is unfairly branding the entire sports community as the root of the problem, when there have been only a few isolated incidents.
“We’re all responsible for what’s happened in sports,” the official said. “But it’s wrong to level wholesale criticism against innocent instructors and athletes who have been working so hard in difficult circumstances.”
Sports figures also took exception to Do’s remarks that the country should stop putting so much emphasis on raising national prestige through sports and pushing athletes into competitive environments, and should instead shift focus on hard work and fair competition.
A labor union of national sports officials - consisting of KSOC officials and representatives from KSOC member associations - said it has always been the government that put pressure on athletes by setting gold medal targets at Olympics and other international events.
The union also pointed out that the government had been reluctant to allocate budget for projects aimed at protecting human rights, and the government had not been cooperative when sports officials sought assistance to improve working conditions for coaches.
Lee Kee-heung, the KSOC boss on the hot seat, said the government appears to have rushed to its decisions.
“Our board members said the government should slow down,” Lee said. “We’ll have to find ways to make improvements, but we must have proper discussions.”