Rights watchdog probes sports

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Rights watchdog probes sports

Korea’s national human rights watchdog announced Monday that it will launch an all-out investigation into human rights violations at local sports groups.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said the decision was based on a conclusion reached by an internal investigation group that launched on Feb. 25 with the mission to probe human rights violations at local sports groups that were reported to the commission. That internal investigation group told the NHRC that violations of human rights were occurring “routinely” in sports circles, which triggered the NHRC to determine to kick off an investigation looking into all sports groups of varying levels, from national teams all the way down to teams representing local districts.

The NHRC said in a statement that its internal investigation group found that sports groups weren’t properly protecting victims who were suffering from physical or sexual assault. All cases that were reported to the internal investigation group lacked a system to protect victims, said the NHRC.

The NHRC said it will look into the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Ministry of Education and all education offices that are in charge of school athletic teams. The NHRC will also crack down on the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee and other sports unions. The human rights group will largely see how cases of physical and sexual assault were handled in each organization, the conclusions they drew for each case and any events that were passed on to the NHRC in the past.

A representative for the NHRC said the results will be used to devise “a practical plan” to improve human rights at local sports groups in the future.

The internal investigation team that paved the way to launching the all-out probe into sports groups looked into 20 cases since it was launched in late February. The team was formed shortly after Olympic short track skating champion Shim Suk-hee claimed she was raped several times by her former coach, Cho Jae-beom, who has already been jailed for beating four skaters, including Shim.

When announcing the investigation team’s launch at the time, the Sports Ministry said it will revise laws to penalize sports officials who conceal sex crimes within their organizations with jail terms and force perpetrators to be suspended from their duties.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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