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South Korea curling officials banned for life after Olympic stars’ abuse claims

Curling - Winter Olympics Day 16

GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 25: Silver medalists YeongMi Kim, SeonYeong Kim, KyeongAe Kim and EunJung Kim of Korea look dejected following the Women’s Gold Medal Game between Sweden and Korea on day sixteen of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Curling Centre on February 25, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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South Korean curling officials and coaches were banned for life after an investigation into abuse claims from the nation’s Olympic silver-medal-winning women’s team.

Kim Kyung-Doo, the former vice president of the Korea Curling Federation, and Kim’s family, including the head coach of the 2018 Olympic women’s team, have been banned for life, according to Yonhap News and a federation press release on Monday.

The Olympic team -- including skip Kim Eun-Jung, Kim Kyeong-Ae, Kim Seon-Yeong, Kim Yeong-Mi and Kim Cho-Hi -- were a revelation in PyeongChang, reaching the final after finishing seventh at the 2017 World Championship. South Korea had only one previous Olympic women’s curling appearance, placing eighth in 2014.

All team members hailed from Uiseong, a farming area known for its garlic, leading to the nickname, “Garlic Girls.”

Eight months after the Olympics, team members announced they wanted officials replaced, claiming they were verbally abusive, withheld prize money and excluded the skip after the Winter Games, according to South Korean media.

“We would like to continue our training [for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics] without our current coaches and their influence,” the players wrote in a 2018 letter to the president of South Korea’s Olympic Committee, according to the Korea Herald. “Our coach Kim [Min-Jung] was hardly present while we were training for the Olympics. Whenever we made complaints about Kim to Kim Kyung-Doo, who is her father and the vice president of Korea Curling Federation, he verbally abused us.”

Players said they were banned from using social media after the Olympics. And that coaches tried to “rule Kim Eun-Jung off the team” after she got married in July 2018, according to the Korea Times.

Jang Ban-Seok, the head coach’s husband and the Olympic mixed curling team’s head coach, denied some claims at the time.

He said prize money covered team expenses, and the curlers signed a financial agreement. He also said that since the skip was planning to get pregnant, they needed to find a replacement skip this summer.

“We’ve never trained in a way that would lead to a curler being kicked off the team,” Jang wrote in 2018, according to the Korea Times.

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