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[Reporter’s Notebook] Korean Olympic committee press conference in Beijing a wasted chance

Korea Skating Union President Yoon Hong-geun (second from left) and members of South Korea’s athletic delegation hold a press conference at the Main Media Center in Beijing, Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Korea Skating Union President Yoon Hong-geun (second from left) and members of South Korea’s athletic delegation hold a press conference at the Main Media Center in Beijing, Tuesday. (Yonhap)
The Korean Sport & Olympic Committee’s urgent press conference in Beijing, held to protest biased officiating, fell far short of the goal of raising the issue internationally, if that had been a goal at all.

The committee conducted the press conference at the Beijing Olympics Main Media Center on Tuesday. The purpose was to announce its plan to file an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport concerning refereeing decisions that disqualified two of the country’s short track speedskating athletes during the men’s 1,000-meter final on Monday.

The KSOC informed the Korean media about the press conference and a large group of reporters attended the event. Although media outlets based outside of Korea were not notified of the press conference, a number of non-Korean reporters showed up to cover the issue. But when no English-language translation was made available, one of the reporters left the venue, complaining about the lack of interpretation.

The upcoming appeal will be the first time in 18 years that Korea and the committee has taken the matter of Korean athletes’ treatment to the CAS. But, by not providing interpretation, the committee wasted a chance to make its position known internationally.

Claiming that the committee did not have sufficient time to prepare for the press conference, a KSOC official promised that a translation of the remarks made by Yoon Hong-geun, president of the Korea Skating Union and the head of South Korea’s athletic delegation, would be made available to reporters that evening. But while the conference had ended around 11:30 a.m., the promised translation was not shared with The Korea Herald until around 10 a.m. the following day, nearly 24 hours after the conference. And, according to another KSOC official, the translated statement had yet to be distributed to foreign media.

Speaking to The Korea Herald, the official admitted that the committee had made a “mistake,” explaining that they were “unaware” that foreign reporters would be present at the press conference. He stressed that securing a room for the conference at very short notice had been a “Herculean task,” while thanking the Main Media Center and IOC for their support.

Tuesday’s press conference may have been Korea’s only chance to speak out about officiating irregularities at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. It could have been an opportunity to form a bond with other countries on the issue, as questionable decisions have affected athletes from other countries as well. Indeed, a number of athletes have accused Olympic referees of bias after several controversial penalties favored Chinese competitors.

What hit home for this reporter was the committee’s strong intent stated in its statement issued the previous day.

In its statement, the committee said the appeal with the CAS is to “publicize the unfairness.” But the way it was handled casts doubt on this.

The press conference was set up for a Korean audience, and was used as an opportunity for the committee to vent their grievances to Korean reporters, possibly in hopes that acknowledging the issue would soothe the anti-Chinese sentiment that has been escalating in Korea following the refereeing decisions.

If the committee had more time to prepare for the press conference, would it have handled the event better? The evidence suggests otherwise.

By Jie Ye-eun (yeeun@heraldcorp.com)
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