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Girls & Women

South Korea to Open Major Investigation Into Sports Sex Abuse Allegations

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Why Global Citizens Should Care
Women around the world are breaking their silence on sexual abuse in the workplace, including in sports. In South Korea, female athletes are shedding light on a system of physical and sexual abuse, and policymakers are taking notice. You can take action here to call on world leaders to strengthen their laws against sexual violence.

Several South Korean female athletes said #MeToo earlier this month, breaking their silence about sexual abuse and rape in sports — and the government is taking these allegations to heart.

The country’s human rights commission announced it will open an investigation into the allegations on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.

The commission said it plans to interview thousands of child and adult athletes across 50 sports over the next year to get to the bottom of the persistent culture of both physical and sexual abuse, and intends to issue new guidelines after the investigation is completed.

Take Action: Tell World Leaders to Redouble Their Efforts By Amending Laws to Prevent Sexual Violence

Short-track speed skater and Olympic gold medalist Shim Suk-hee was the first to come forward with allegations of physical violence and rape by her former coach two weeks ago.

And her bravery triggered a wave of athletes coming forward with such stories, which gained national attention.

"The recent series of testimonies about violence and sexual assault in the sports industry represent our shame that has been hidden beneath the glorious appearance of Korea as a sports powerhouse," South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in response to the many stories that have since come to light.

Several athletes say they, or their parents, reported incidences of abuse, but that their accusations were not taken seriously and were not addressed.

Read More: Aly Raisman and 140 Sexual Abuse Survivors Honored with ESPY Courage Award

Shim’s coach, Cho Jae-beom, seems to be one of the few cases in which a perpetrator of abuse has been held to account. Cho, who had served as the sport’s national coach, was fired just before the start of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang last year due to allegations of violent, physical abuse against athletes. He is now serving a 10-month prison sentence, CNN reports, though he continues to deny accusations of sexual abuse.

The investigation, set to be the commission’s largest sports-related inquiry, aims to diagnose the problem in South Korea’s sports culture and offer solutions.

“Physical and sexual violence in [South Korean] sports does not happen incidentally, but is generated consistently under a structure,” Choi Young-ae, chairwoman of the commission, said. “A culture that puts medals and other awards over everything else has been exonerating violent behaviors and such violence has been closely associated with the sexual violence that occurs.”