SEOUL: A South Korean Olympic short-track medallist sexually harassed another male Games podium-finisher, officials said Tuesday — prompting them to suspend the entire team.
The offender — who has not been identified — reportedly forcibly pulled down the victim’s trousers, leaving him standing in his underwear in front of team-mates at the national training centre in Jincheon.
In response coaches collectively punished the entire team — seven men and seven women — and expelled them from the facility for a month, a Korean Sport & Olympic Committee official told AFP.
“There had been a number of other cases of misbehaviour before this (in the short track speed skating team), and that’s one of the reasons why this decision was made,” the official said.
Earlier this year, a male skater was suspended for a month after secretly getting into the female dorm at the Jincheon centre.
Both male skaters involved in the latest incident won medals at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics last year, the official said.
It is the latest in a series of embarrassing off-field incidents in South Korean sports.
The South is a regional sporting power and regularly in the top 10 medal table places at the summer and winter Olympics.
But in an already intensely competitive society, winning is virtually everything in its sports community — and physical and verbal abuse are known to be rife.
The nation’s short track speed skating community, in particular, has faced several serious abuse scandals in recent years.
In January, double Olympic short track gold medallist Shim Suk-hee went public with accusations her former coach sexually molested and physically abused her multiple times.
Another speed skater, Noh Seon-yeong, last year accused the Korea Skating Union (KSU) of forcing her brother Jin-kyu — a top medal contender for Sochi 2014 — to continue training rather than seek medical attention, despite chronic pain.
He was later diagnosed with bone cancer following a training injury, never went to Sochi, and died in 2016.