South Korea ex-Olympic coach jailed for 10 years for sexually assaulting athlete

A former national speed skating coach in South Korea has been sentenced to more than decade in prison for sexually assaulting double Olympic gold medallist Shim Suk-hee.

“The accused committed sexual assault by force, repeatedly using the victim’s inability to protest against her speed skating coach,” Suwon district court ruled on Thursday, according to Yonhap news agency.

Cho Jae-beom was then sentenced to 10.5 years in jail for the “highly condemnable” act against a juvenile.

Shim filed her complaint against Cho in January 2019, accusing him of having sexually abused her for years when a teenager. Now aged 23, Shim has four Olympic medals to her name, including relay golds at both Sochi 2014 and on home ice during the Pyeongchang Games four years later.

Her allegations that she was sexually assaulted by her coach when she was 17 sent shockwaves through South Korea.

Speed skating has brought the country regional sporting acclaim, earning it top 10 places at the summer and winter Olympics.

But in an already intensely competitive society where coaches hold immense sway over athletes’ careers, the sport was long known to be rife with physical and verbal abuse.

Cho was sentenced to 18 months in jail in January 2019 on separate charges of physically abusing Shim, and he now has to serve a total of 12 years in prison.

South Korea remains a highly patriarchal country, where victims of sex crimes often face public shaming and convicted rapists can receive relatively lenient sentences.