The Korea Herald


Former Olympic hero battles rumors surrounding her groom-to-be

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : Oct. 25, 2023 - 16:58

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Nam Hyun-hee (Instagram) Nam Hyun-hee (Instagram)

A series of rumors and accusations surrounding retired fencer Nam Hyun-hee's impending marriage has surfaced recently, with the former Olympic medalist and her groom-to-be vowing legal action against what they say are groundless accusations.

Nam said Monday that she will marry a man named Jeon Cheong-jo, who was initially reported to be a businessman from a wealthy family. But in the two days since her announcement, the 42-year-old former athlete has been plagued by an array of allegations about Jeon’s past and even sexuality.

Dispatch, a media outlet that specializes in celebrity news, reported Wednesday that Jeon was an ex-convict who had gone to prison for multiple charges of fraud and extortion, and that he was actually a woman. In a court verdict acquired by the investigative news outlet, Jeon was sentenced to two years and three months in prison by Incheon court in Dec. 11, 2020, for swindling money from multiple victims.

Dispatch noted that the convict had posed to be a man while approaching the victims, in multiple cases. In a June 2019 case, she pretended to be an extramarital son of Philip Jeon, the head of a local casino and resort conglomerate Paradise Group.

Later in the day, another news outlet reported that Jeon was a female student who attended Korea Horseman High School, a school based in North Jeolla Province that specializes in equestrian education. A supposed photo of Jeon -- a high school girl with long hair and glasses -- was also revealed.

Nam said her fiance was a former equestrian who trained in New York, whose injuries forced his retirement at the age of 19.

Another screen grab of the high school girl speaking in a news interview showed that her name was indeed Jeon Cheong-jo.

Rumors surrounding the Nam couple had surfaced almost immediately after she broke the news of her imminent marriage. A person wrote in an internet post Tuesday that he or she was hired by someone to be a fake journalist that "attempts to interview Nam and Jeon while they are dining."

The person was instructed to ask series of questions, such as asking Jeon what his relationship was with the Paradise Group, and if he is indeed a reclusive head of a New York-based company. As evidence, the person revealed a series of text messages that they received from a broker, who instructed them to “apologize and leave the site when Jeon gets angry.”

It has not been verified if the high school girl is indeed Nam’s fiance, if the person Nam pledged her hand in marriage to was the ex-con in the aforementioned verdict, or if all of this was a remarkable coincidence. The Korea Equestrian Federation declined to confirm if Jeon had indeed been an equestrian as he claimed.

The couple denied all rumors Tuesday, vowing legal actions against anyone who spreads them.