Who is the greatest Korean athlete

Sports and Abuse in South Korea"Many think that is the price for success"

Almost 15 percent of all elite athletes in the country have experienced violence or sexual abuse in the country's sports system. That is the result of a report that South Korea's National Human Rights Commission has just published. The investigation reveals widespread abuse in the country's youth development system.

"The most shocking thing for us was that many of the children and young people lacked the awareness that they had been wronged. Many think that this is something they have to go through, the price of success. A third of the parents also found violence cannot always be avoided. "

Says Kim Hyunsue, who led the investigation for the National Commission on Human Rights. It is the largest survey in the history of Korean sport - perhaps the whole world. Because all 63,211 competitive athletes in the country first filled out a questionnaire and then provided further information in individual interviews.

Short tracker accused her trainer of rape

The reason for the investigation: the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Months after speed skater Shim Sukhee won gold twice in front of a home crowd, Shim accused her trainer of raping her. At this point he was already sentenced to prison for physically injuring Shim and other athletes. Other athletes from other sports soon followed suit, reporting abuse within the system.

Kim Hyunsue from the National Human Rights Commission of South Korea: "A third of the parents thought that violence could not always be avoided." (Felix Lill)

The report of the Human Rights Commission, says Kim Hyunsue, now shows: "Abuse is much more common than officially suspected. The majority of cases of abuse involve physical violence, but sexual offenses are also increasing. Four percent of all young athletes have already been Affected by sexual offenses, girls slightly more frequently than boys. If physical violence is included, boys are more frequently affected. In girls, the trainers are usually the perpetrators, usually during, before or after training. In boys, it is more likely that older boys are involved and the offenses mostly take place in the boarding rooms. "

Kim suspects, however, that the true incidence of violent and sexual offenses is significantly higher. Many children and adolescents are probably cautious with the answers, also because they suppress some of what happens to them or do not see them as acts of violence or sexuality at all.

More than a system failure?

In Germany, a study three years ago provided for the first time figures on the extent of sexual violence in competitive sports. Result: A third of all respondents have experienced sexualised violence from sexist sayings, groping to rape.

The sports most affected by the Korean survey are soccer, baseball, and the national sport, Taekwondo. In relation to the number of athletes, attacks are most common in badminton and the Go board game. Around 40 percent of the athletes here had to experience threats of violence, bodily harm, groping or rape.

Kim Dooil from the National Olympic Committee in South Korea (Felix Lill)

The Korean public is also deeply concerned about the issue because it may be more than a system failure. Kim Dooil of the National Olympic Committee also sees the problem in the country's culture.

"Too often we think that we always have to obey the coach, the supervisor. That is part of our culture. And then this saying: No pain, no gain - everyone knows it. So athletes think that they do everything to be successful But I think things will get better with time. Today there is more awareness than in the past. And after the Pyeongchang Winter Games, we introduced compulsory education courses for our coaches throughout the youth system. There is now one for the athletes independent confidante whom you can always turn to. "

"Much more should change"

Kim Hyunsue from the National Human Rights Commission also reports on these innovations. But whether that is enough is doubted. For example from Na Young. Young is chairman of the SHARE association, which advocates gender equality. She has been dealing with dominance relationships in Korean society for 20 years. In relation to sport, she states:

"Much more would have to change. Children are selected into the elite system at the age of five to six. They then live there, often play more than four hours a day and do not concentrate on school. That makes them more and more dependent in their careers from sport, the older they get. One would have to pay more attention to their school education. In addition, women are still depicted in a very reduced way in public, the television channels constantly show their body parts and emphasize their beauty. to create an environment free of abuse. "

Resistance seems inevitable

The National Human Rights Commission is still reluctant to make clear recommendations for action to the government, which is largely responsible for the state-funded promotion of young talent. First of all, she wants to wait for more detailed results from the interviews with parents and trainers. Until then, the country's better-known athletes also seem to be holding back with clear statements.

Kim Hyunsue of the Human Rights Commission says already now that he wants to push for a stronger focus on school education. He would also like to give more intensive support to sports clubs that don't send their offspring to boarding school straight away.

Resistance to such proposals seems preprogrammed. After all, the previous system was quite successful, at least from a sporting point of view.