Kim Bo-reum sues teammate over 2018 bullying claims

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Kim Bo-reum sues teammate over 2018 bullying claims

From left: Kim Bo-reum, Noh Seon-yeong and Park Ji-woo at the end of the team pursuit race at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. [YONHAP]

From left: Kim Bo-reum, Noh Seon-yeong and Park Ji-woo at the end of the team pursuit race at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. [YONHAP]

 
Speed skater Kim Bo-reum, who was caught up in a bullying controversy during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, has reportedly sued teammate Noh Seon-yeong.
 
Kim, who was accused of bullying Noh during the Games, filed a lawsuit against Noh last year seeking 200 million won ($180,000) in damages, according to multiple media reports on Tuesday. In the lawsuit, Kim argued that Noh's accusations at the Olympics caused her mental health problems and a panic disorder, for which she needed counseling, as well as lost earnings as her sponsorship deals were canceled.
 
Kim was accused of bullying her teammate during the women’s team pursuit race at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. The incident briefly made her public enemy number one in Korea, as more than half a million people signed a contract on the Blue House website calling for her to be ejected from the national squad.
 
During the women’s team’s pursuit race, the women’s team, composed of Kim, Park Ji-woo and Noh, showed poor teamwork that led Kim to receive criticism for her unsportsmanlike behavior.
 
The race seemed to go to as planned at the beginning. Kim led for three laps while Park and Noh each took the lead for a lap and a half.
 
Park started the group for the first half and had Noh lead for another lap. When one skater seemed to fall behind, the other at the back of the group pushed the person ahead to continue the race.
 
But the group’s final lap is where it all went wrong: The team raced the final lap with Kim at the front followed by Park and Noh, but before reaching the finish line Noh had fallen far behind. As a result, Korea finished seventh in the quarterfinals with a time of 3 minutes and 03.76 seconds. After the lap, Kim appeared to blame Noh for the loss.
 
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism ultimately cleared Kim of bullying her teammate Noh Seon-yeong, placing the blame on the team’s coach, Baek Chul-gi. While Kim may have made comments that implied it was Noh’s fault the team lost after the race, the ministry determined that Kim and Park Ji-woo made no intentional effort to leave her behind on the ice.
 
Despite the decision, Kim took an eight-month break as she struggled to come to terms with the mental pressure of the Games. She returned to the ice in late 2019.
 
BY JEONG HYE-JEONG, PARK SO-YOUNG AND JIM BULLEY   [jim.bulley@joongang.co.kr]
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