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World Triathlon Executive Board member suspended over handling of athlete suicide in 2020

After years of abuse, Choi Suk-hyeon had made numerous complaints before taking her own life

On June 26, 2020, 22-year-old South Korean Triathlon Choi Suk-hyeon committed suicide after undergoing “years of abuse” from coaches and a physical therapist. The head coach of her club, Kim Gym-bong was sentenced to seven years in jail for physically abusing her, while the team physical threapist, Ann Joo-hyeon, was given an eight-year sentence.

Choi had been part of the South Korean national team since 2015.

News reports at the time of her death reported that Choi had been “subject to beatings, verbal abuse and harassment by members of the coaching staff,” It was also reported that Choi had made recordings of her abuse by coaches. A few months before she took her own life, “Choi complained to the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee … asking for an investigation,” the BBC reported after her death, while the South China Morning Post reported that she had filed a “litany of complaints about abuse.”

Those complaints appeared to fall on deaf ears and were not take through the appropriate channels until it was too late.

Today World Triathlon announced that one of its Executive Board members, Justin Sukwon Park, has been suspended over his handling of the Choi case. At the time Park was the head of the Korea Triathlon Federation, in addition to his position on the Executive Board and as Asia Triathlon President. The World Triathlon Tribunal decided on the suspension “for alleged violations of the World Triathlon Safeguarding Policy and the World Triathlon Code of Ethics,” according to a release sent out today.

While he is no longer head of the Korea Triathlon Federation, after the decision by the Tribunal on Feb. 8, Park was suspended from the Executive Board and resigned as Asia Triathlon President on Feb. 28.

The Tribunal found that Park “failed to ensure that the Korean Triathlon Federation immediately informed Lead Welfare Officers at World Triathlon of any reported cases of harassment and abuse to happen in its federation, in accordance to the World Triathlon Safeguarding Policy. He also failed to ensure that the personal rights of individuals were protected, respected, and safeguarded.”

“Mr Jae-Keun Lee, Korea Triathlon Federation Secretary General, Mr Woo-Kyong Ki, Business Operations Manager of the KTF, and Mr Yonghu Jeon, Deputy Secretary General of the KTF, have also been suspended for 18 months for violations of the World Triathlon Code of Ethics,” according to World Triathlon.