Short track star paves way for driving out abuse in sports
An Olympic gold medalist in short track speed skating was at the center of media attention this week for the inhuman ordeals she suffered at the hands of her former coach who is now in jail for assaulting her.
The nation vividly remembers the multiple triumphs of Shim Suk-hee, who first came to national spotlight when she clinched gold with her team in the 3000-meter relay at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games when she was only 17 years old. She also took silver in the 1,500 meters and bronze in the 1,000 meters, quickly becoming the nation's short track darling.
The media reported earlier this week that the 22-year-old had filed a complaint in December 2018 for alleged sexual abuse against her former coach Cho Jae-beom, who is serving a 10-month prison sentence for physical assault against the star skater and three other athletes. She claimed that he raped and sexually assaulted her multiple times since she was in high school. The abuse allegedly continued until the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
It is hard to believe that the young athlete has kept silent about her ordeal and committed herself to training all these years under such horrendous conditions. Shim has resumed training for international competitions, but it was reported that her father is suffering harshly from the trauma of hearing about his daughter's experience. Her stories have particularly enraged parents who have daughters her age.
Given that the sexual abuse allegedly took place in the locker room of a national training facility, the state shoulders a heavy responsibility for not preventing such unfortunate incidents against the athletes who compete for the country at the Olympics and other international events.
After Shim's allegations were widely reported in the media, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on Wednesday announced measures to eradicate sexual violence in the sports community. But it was too little too late for Shim and many other victims of sexual assault. Roh Tae-gang, first vice minister at the culture ministry, said during an emergency briefing that he had no idea of the sexual assaults Shim had suffered and only learned about them through the media. The Korean Sport & Olympic Committee and Korea Skating Union also deserve much of the blame for not properly taking care of the athletes.
Korea is still unbelievably backward when it comes to dealing with sexual violence and the blame tends to be placed on the women victims. We applaud Shim's immense courage to come forward with her experiences of physical and sexual abuse. Her stories will hopefully prompt other women to speak up and launch a sweeping #MeToo movement not only in sports but in all corners of Korean society.