After the famous Olympic Medalist Shim Suk-hee’s recent allegations of sexual abuse, more female skating athletes from South Korea voiced out about the country’s culture of physical violence and sexual harassment.
One of the women who could not stand to remain silent had an interview with CNN’s Paula Hancocks. She was afraid to tell what her name was, so she was known as “A.” On her interview, she said that she was physically abused since the age of 11.
“A” talked about how she was struck with a skate blade sleeve up to 20 times in her coach’s room. As a result, she suffered muscle rupture, bruises and split skin. Her brother was also beaten with a golf club.
She previously attempted to leave the skating team many times, but she believes she has great potential in the sport. Due to these incidents, “A’s” mom complained to the government officials but ended to no avail. She also tried to convince other parents to do the same but failed.
She narrated that there is a strong camaraderie or system going on. Telling anyone about her sadistic and abusive coach would ultimately result to her skating career’s end. In addition, she would not be able to attend any university or join a professional team.
She was sexually abused at the age of 15. A male coach kissed her near her lips, hugged her repeatedly and texted her words of love for 2 years. Since she was young and scared back then, she decided to keep quiet.
She decided to no longer remain silent after the famous Olympic gold medalist, Shim Suk-hee voice out. Shim’s allegations of sexual abuse has gone viral in the speed skating world and was able to get the attention of South Korean President, Moon Jae-in.
Shim was a fan-favorite in South Korea and was also admired internationally. She claimed that she was raped since she was 17 by her former coach, Cho Jae-beom.
Last year, Cho was found guilty of Shim, alongside three other skaters’ accusations and is currently in a 10-month prison sentence. But he denied these recent claims.
After the hearing’s verdict, Shim stated that she hopes that sports athletes will no longer faced this sad fate and that violence should stop. In response, President Moon said that the recent testimonies of violence and abuse in the field of sports represent the nation’s shame that is hidden under South Korea’s name as a sports powerhouse.
In South Korean sports, female athletes have been facing abuse and harassment for a long time. Moon mentioned that these cases had been the horror faced by female athletes for the past years. Further, they have failed to bring permanent change regarding this issue, hence, the usual complaint of activists.
South Koreans are known to be a big Olympic fan base, at the same time, very nationalistic. The issues about training cultures are usually overlooked as long as athletes got the gold.
Yeo Jun-Hyung, founder of Korea’s support group for young skaters, discussed that powerful government officials and sports associations usually hide this kind of accusations. 14 years ago, his sister was a victim of physical abuse. He further told CNN that associations only cares about the needs of the executives and coaches.
Yeo said that a lot of skaters who asked him for help are too scared to testify publicly as they don’t want to do anything that would result to their skating career’s end. He said that recent allegations are most likely only the tip of the iceberg.
Shim’s act of bravery, inspired other athletes not only in skating but also in taekwondo, judo and wrestling to speak out about the abuse they’ve been experiencing.