Only days before the vote to pick the new head of the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC), a sub-commission under the KOC has accused the nation's top sports body of trying to influence the election.
The KOC's board of directors last Friday named Kim Young-chae, president of the Korea Woman's Sports Association and vice president of the Korea Swimming Federation, the new head of the Athletes' Commission. Under the KOC rules, the head of that particular commission has a vote in the KOC presidential election scheduled for Friday, and commission members have charged that Kim's appointment by the KOC was biased and favors one candidate over the other in the election.
Kim Jung-haeng, a former head of the Korea Judo Association, and Lee Elisa, a ruling party lawmaker, will square off in Friday's election. Lee had been the head of the Athletes' Commission, but she resigned from the post, citing conflict of interest, last Tuesday.
But after the KOC named Kim Young-chae as Lee's replacement, members of the commission voiced their disapproval in a statement on Sunday. They pointed out that their new head has ties with Kim Jung-haeng's camp and the decision to give her a vote in the KOC election would "adversely affect impartiality of the vote."
Kim Young-chae is regarded as a close aide to Lee Kee-heung, president of the Korea Swimming Federation and also one of the strongest backers for Kim Jung-haeng's bid. When Kim Jung-haeng announced his candidacy at a press conference earlier this month, Lee gave a speech in his support.
Kim Jung-haeng is also a long-time aide to Park Yong-sung, the incumbent KOC head who has decided not to seek a second term.
The Athletes' Commission members asked the KOC to immediately withdraw its appointment of Kim Young-chae and to stop intervening in the election. They said under the commission's rules, the outgoing commission president should have named her replacement because she was no longer able to perform her duty due to "unavoidable circumstances."
The KOC countered on Monday that it would stand by its decision from last week. The KOC pointed out that Lee Elisa chose to resign from her post, rather than be forced out by unavoidable situations, and it meant the KOC could appoint the commission's new head.
The KOC also asked the Athletes' Commission to stop making "groundless accusations" and threatened a legal action without an official apology.
The KOC delegates are 55 heads of national sports federations, two South Korean members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) -- Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee and lawmaker Moon Dae-sung -- and the head of the Athletes' Commission.
Two federations -- the Korea Ski Association and the Korean Amateur Boxing Federation -- have not yet elected their presidents and thus will not have their votes.
KOC sources have said Lee Kun-hee is not expected to take part in the vote. Depending on the outcome of the feud between the KOC and the Athletes' Commission, the total number of delegates eligible to vote will be 54 or 55.
If neither candidate wins the majority in the first round of the voting, the election will go into the second round. If the candidates are tied after three rounds of voting then the older of the two, Kim Jung-haeng, will be declared the winner. (Yonhap News)