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German-born luge racer set to represent Korea at PyeongChang Olympics

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By Baek Byung-yeul

Aileen Frisch / Korea Times file
Aileen Frisch / Korea Times file
German-born luge racer Aileen Frisch will represent South Korea at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, officials at the Ministry of Justice said Thursday.

According to the justice ministry, a panel of ministry officials endorsed the recommendation by the Korean Olympics Committee (KOC) for the 24-year-old luge athlete to receive special naturalization on Nov. 7. The KOC recommended her to the ministry five months ago.

The ministry also notified the Korea Luge Federation (KLF) of the decision, adding that she is set to acquire Korean citizenship if she passes a ministry interview planned this month. According to the ministry, Frisch is allowed to have dual citizenship under the Special Naturalization Law.

An official at the KLF said the naturalization procedure will be completed after the German passes the interview. Once she acquires Korean citizenship, she is expected to represent Korea in the World Cup and international competitions starting January, the official said.

Frisch won gold medals at the junior world and junior European championships but retired from luge racing after she failed to be included in the senior German squad for the 2015/16 season. Then she was approached by the KLF to race for Korea. Germany is a luge powerhouse, winning every gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Regarding the naturalization process, the KLF said it has handled procedures from a long-term perspective. "We plan to let her pass on know-how to the Korean luge team after the PyeongChang Winter Olympics."

Prior to the country's first-ever Winter Olympics, Korea has been fostering talented athletes in three Olympic sledding sports ― bobsleigh, luge and skeleton. Korea has managed to produce tangible results in bobsleigh and skeleton ― Yun Sung-bin ranked second at the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation's (IBSF) 2015/16 season in men's skeleton and the Won Yun-jong-Seo-Young-woo pair clinched the world No.1 title in the two-man bobsleigh rankings last season. But there has not been any success in luge.

Other than sledding sports, Korea has been issuing citizenships to an increasing number of foreign athletes for Winter Olympics success.

Last April, two Russia-born biathlon athletes Aleksandr Starodubets and Anna Frolina, were given Korean citizenship. Including Matt Dalton and Eric Regan who obtained Korean citizenship last March, the Korean national ice hockey team currently has a total of six naturalized players in the squad.

Russian ice dancer Kirill Minov and American Alexander Gamelin are also taking legal procedures to acquire Korean citizenship.

Baek Byung-yeul

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