Young athletes live together in dormitories and regularly skip classes to attend rehearsals, leaving them with few career choices outside of sport. Such a system gives coaches exceptional power over athletes and other victims have said they are afraid to speak earlier out of fear that they would be out of career and ostracized by their teammates.
In a rare example of a Korean speaking athlete, Shim Suk-hee, two-time Olympic gold medalist in short track speed skating, shocked the country last year accusing her former coach of repeatedly raping her since she was 17. Cho Jae-beom, was sentenced to 10 months in prison for physically assaulting four athletes, including Ms. Shim, between 2011 and preparations for the 2018 Winter Olympics held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. He is still fighting allegations of rape in court.
Korean cases are part of a broader global trend in which female athletes talk about physical, emotional and sexual abuse by their coaches and team doctors. In the United States, Larry Nasser, a doctor was sentenced from 40 to 175 years for molesting dozens of girls, many of them Olympic gymnasts, on the pretext of giving them tests.
Although it is difficult to fully understand her mentality, Ms. Choi, 22, had sought help by filing complaints and petitions with the authorities. In the months leading up to his suicide, he reported his case to the National Human Rights Commission, the Korean Triathlon Federation, the Korean Olympic and Sports Committee and the police in the city of Gyeongju, where the team was based.
Ms. Choi told authorities, in the complaints reviewed by the Times, that Mr. Ahn had slapped, punched and kicked her more than 20 times the day she recorded and fractured a rib. He said he didn’t seek medical attention at the time for fear of retaliation.
“She has been stressed lately because the officials she appealed to have acted as if some beatings and abuse should be taken for granted in the sport,” said Ms. Choi’s father, Choi Young-hee. The authorities, he said, told Ms. Choi “that the defendant denied any wrongdoing and that they did not have enough evidence to act, even though we gave them the audio files.”
“Our country may be very advanced in other areas, but human rights in our sports remain stuck in the 70s and 80s,” said Choi, a farmer. “Who will bring my daughter back to life?”