South Korea Next Battleground for Olympic Autonomy?

(ATR) The government seeks more control over the South Korea NOC, risking trouble with the IOC.

(ATR) Changes proposed to the bylaws of the South Korea NOC could put its status at risk with the IOC over questions of government interference.

Vice Minister of Sport Jong Kim is promoting a rewrite of the KOC bylaws that allows the government to select the NOC president as well as oversee the committee’s finances. It’s the sort of intrusion that the IOC has viewed dimly in the past, suspending NOCs on a frequent basis over autonomy disputes between government and Olympic Committee.

Kuwait is the current example, suspended by the IOC last October after the sports minister refused to change legislation giving the government control over sports federations in the country. As a result, Kuwaiti athletes who may compete at the Rio Olympics must do so under the flag of the IOC, not Kuwait.

So far the South Korean situation has not received much attention, but appears to have the potential to become a high profile case, especially since the country will host the winter Olympics two years from now.

Yang Ho Cho, president of Pyeongchang 2018 and one of three vice presidents of the KOC, has refused to comment so far.

Vice Minister Kim has taken the lead in drafting new bylaws for the NOC with a timetable that calls for adoption of the changes at a Congress February 15. A report by SBS News in Seoul says the KOC has expressed concern to Kim about the repercussions of conflict with the IOC and the Olympic Charter.

"As the host country of the next Winter Olympic Games, if we violate the IOC Charter and its regulations, then, we could receive penalties from the IOC," is the quote reported by SBS.

The minister is also being challenged by the KOC over whether the new bylaws must first be approved by theIOC before they can be enacted in Korea. Late last week Kim challenged the KOC assertion on IOC approval when he declared that the existing bylaws governing the KOC have not been approved by the IOC seven years after they were submitted.

Supposedly the minister has asked for current president Jung Haeng Kim to step down for election of a new president in September.

The KOC and IOC were not available for immediate comment, which could be a few days away. Offices of the KOC are closed until February 11 in observance of the lunar new year.

The IOC staff officially moved Friday into temporary office space where they begin operation February 8. The old headquarters is under demolition for construction of a new building that will take about two years to complete. Key staff are also on the move to Norway where the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games begin in Lillehammer February 12.

According to a document seen by Around the Rings that highlights the changes proposed by the sports minister, instances of involvement by the government in the affairs of the NOC appear to be numerous. They include:

*All marketing programs must be approved by the ministry in advance

*The ministry has the right to ask the KOC to audit national federations.

*If an acting president is needed for the KOC, the ministry must approve.

*Key KOC staff must be approved by the ministry.

*Any decision related to KOC assets must be approved by the Ministry.

*The annual budget of the KOC would require ministry approval.

The changes are due to be adopted Feb. 15.

Written by Ed Hula.

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