Skating body faces audit over graft

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Feb 17, 2014 - 20:12
  • Updated : Feb 17, 2014 - 20:12
The government will launch an audit into the national skating governing body over allegations of corruption and factional feuds after the end of the ongoing Winter Games, a senior sports official said Monday, as questions have been raised on the circumstances surrounding a South Korean-born athlete’s switching allegiances to Russia.

“After the Sochi Winter Olympics ends (on Sunday), we will review the entire system at the Korea Skating Union to see if there had been any corruption or feuds in selecting national team skaters and coaches,” said Kim Chong, a vice minister of culture, sports and tourism in charge of sports affairs.

“Our athletes still have to stay focused on their competition, and so we will not take any steps during the Olympics.”

Russia’s Viktor Ahn, born Ahn Hyun-soo in South Korea, recently won short track gold and bronze medals at the Sochi Winter Olympics. Ahn became a Russian citizen in 2011, as his family claimed that he’d been an innocent victim of power struggles within the KSU and he needed to extend his career in a better environment.

Though it has been more than two years since Ahn’s defection, the reasons behind his decision came back into the national spotlight during the Olympics, with his victories providing a stark contrast to South Koreans’ struggles on the ice. Last week, President Park Geun-hye ordered sports officials to look into any role corruption might have played in forcing Ahn to leave his native country.

Ahn’s gold in the men’s 1,000m was Russia’s first-ever short track title and made him an instant celebrity in his adopted country. South Korean men have not won any medal in Sochi and are in danger of getting shut out in Olympic short track for only the second time.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism carried out sweeping audits into 57 national and regional sports federations last year and announced its findings last month, but the KSU wasn’t subject to any penalty at the time.

Kim noted that those audits largely targeted financial irregularities and it was difficult for the ministry to investigate corruption in other areas.

Lawmakers of rival political parties rebuked the government and demanded it provide measures to prevent a similar incident to Ahn’s.

Speaking at a meeting of a parliamentary committee for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics and other international games, Rep. An Min-suk of the main opposition Democratic Party called for a parliamentary hearing on the circumstances surrounding Ahn’s case.

He also took issue with the fact that the head coach of the country’s national short track team is the same person who stepped down from the post 10 years ago over a beating incident within the team at the time.

Rep. Lee Elisa of the ruling Saenuri Party, meanwhile, criticized the government over the make-up of its committee for fair sports. The former national table tennis player questioned whether the committee can carry out its role properly with only a few civil servants from the sports ministry and other members appointed by the vice minister. (Yonhap)