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Ministries’ plan tackles sexual assault in sports

Jan 18,2019
High-ranking government officials vowed to combat sexual abuse within the sporting world in a government briefing Thursday.

“Currently, we are looking into revising the law to make sure that members of any sporting group, committee or club responsible for hiding or ignoring sexual abuse claims can be punished by a prison sentence,” said Lee Sook-jin, the vice minister of gender equality and family.

A revision to a law aimed at preventing sexual assault and protecting victims is currently pending in the National Assembly.

The briefing followed two widely-reported sexual abuse allegations from two athletes.

After two-time Olympic gold medalist short track skater Shim Suk-hee last week said her coach raped her for years, Shin Yu-yong, a judoka, raised similar accusations Monday.

Representatives from the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism all mentioned additional disciplinary measures they said they would implement over the next month.

The Gender Equality Ministry introduced plans to review the current sexual assault report centers, evaluate their effectiveness and create psychological consolation spaces where victims can anonymously report sexual assault and seek help.

Under the new plan, all sexual assault cases reported to the police and consultants will be directly sent to support faculties run by the Gender Equality Ministry. Victims will be provided with free legal consultation, as well as counselling.

“From now on, we will make sure that victims of sexual abuse can call on the authorities without having to fear backlash,” said Lee.

Additionally, the Education Ministry revealed details of a plan to reassess schools’ sports teams and said it would cooperate closely with the Sports Ministry to give stronger penalties to instructors and coaches who show irresponsible behavior.

Both representatives also said they would introduce a strict employment policy to ensure underqualified coaches are not hired at schools.

Oh Young-woo, the representative from the Sports Ministry, said a consultative group made up of members from all three ministries would conduct a survey of all athletes, student athletes, coaches and related parties in Korea.

The survey will focus on both sexual and physical abuse. About 63,000 people are expected to be pertinent to the survey, according to Oh. Based on the results of the survey, the government may take additional action.

“For the complete survey, we are strongly considering asking for the participation of the National Human Rights Commission of the Republic of Korea,” said Oh, the representative from the Sports Ministry. “We will introduce additional details about the survey once the collaboration is confirmed.”

The Education Ministry and Sports Ministry also announced they would introduce mandatory sexual education for all athletes and coaches through the same consultative group that will administer the survey.

BY RHEE ESTHER, JEONG JU-WON [jeong.juwon@joongang.co.kr]