(ATR) It sounds like an encore from Rio: political battles threaten to overshadow the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
Ominously reminiscent of the malaise that gripped Brazil in the last year to the 2016 Olympics, South Korea is in the midst of a political crisis that could lead to the impeachment of President Geun Hye Park, just as the country needs to get ready to host the Winter Games.
Park is battling accusations that she has received advice and counsel from a shadowy accomplice who has no official government standing. Park spoke to the nation on live TV Tuesday night to explain the relationship, bowing in apology when she finished.
The Brazilian congress impeached Dilma Rousseff in August just days after the close of the 2016 Olympics after nearly a year of protests, hearings and marathon debate. Rousseff was accused of manipulating the federal budget to hide economic difficulties. She suffered approval ratings in single digits. In Korea, Park is slipping, scoring 24 percent approval in the latest polling.
The impact of the crisis on preparations for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang is not immediately apparent. At the very least, the political battles will be a distraction for the government and the public, coming at a time when the Olympics may need extra attention and ticket sales are needed to help pay for the Games.
Further undercutting her status, Park is already a lame duck in the lead-up to the Olympics as she is limited to a single five-year term that expires as the Games close in February 2018.
IOC President Thomas Bach was supposed to meet with Park during his visit to Korea earlier this month, but the Korean president was not able to find time in her schedule.
IOC spokesman Mark Adams is sanguine about the situation with the government, indicating no alarm when asked about the pressures facing President Park.
"From the recent visit all preparations for the Games seem to be going very well with all test events on schedule," he said via email.
Korean Olympic Committee Protest Friday
Troubles loom for the Korean Olympic Committee which is in the midst of conflict over the results of its presidential election this month. A protest is scheduled Oct. 28 in front of the Korean Olympic Committee headquarters by critics of the election won by Ki Heung Lee.
On the legal front, the results are being challenged in Civil Court by plaintiffs who want the court to order a new vote. The most significant complaint appears to be whether the voters in the election were properly certified.
On a personal front, Lee comes with ethics baggage. A former president of the Korean Swimming Federation, Lee vacated the office as other leaders from the organization ran afoul of corruption allegations.
Those connections have put Lee at odds with the Ministry of Sports which makes him a political outcast. But how much attention the government is ready to pay to the KOC crisis may be limited. A source in Seoul tells Around the Rings that the preoccupation withPresident Park's controversies will may delay any moves by the government to resolve the KOC leadership question.
Written by Ed Hula.
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