Road To The Olympic Games

South Korea's curling 'Garlic Girls' say they were abused

The darlings of South Korea's Winter Olympics are back in the headlines eight months after their stirring run to a curling silver medal in Pyeongchang.

Olympic darlings accuse executive of verbal abuse, excessive control of private lives

The team known as the 'Garlic Girls,' the South Korean silver medallists at the 2018 Winter Olympics, had an investigation launched into claims of abuse against their curling federation's former vice president. (Aaron Favila/The Associated Press)

The darlings of South Korea's Winter Olympics are back in the headlines eight months after their stirring run to a curling silver medal in Pyeongchang.

South Korea's sports ministry on Wednesday announced a joint investigation with the national Olympic committee into allegations by the so-called Garlic Girls of abuse.

The five-member women's curling team that shot to international renown in February and sparked unprecedented national attention for their sport sent a letter to the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee last week to outline their allegations.

The women, from a remote province famous for its garlic, captured hearts in a country that hardly knew curling before and became sought-after models for commercials and inspired countless online memes and catch-phrases.

The attention was so great during the games that their coach took away their cellphones to shield the curlers from any pressure. The Garlic Girls ultimately lost to Sweden in the gold medal match.

'Human rights being violated'

In the letter, Kim Eun-jung, Kim Seon-yeong, Kim Yeong-ae, Kim Cho-hee and Kim Yeong-mi accused former Korean Curling Federation (KCF) vice-president Kim Kyong-doo of verbal abuse and team coaches of giving unreasonable orders and subjecting their private lives to excessive control.

"The human rights of the athletes are being violated," the athletes, the first Asian team to win a curling silver, wrote. "We've reached a point where it has become unbearable."

The curlers also accused coaches of holding back prize money and trying to sideline captain Kim Eun-jung after learning of her plans to start a family.

The coaches "tried to rule Kim Eun-jung off the team after she got married in July," the letter said. "They separated the skip and the team captain's role to minimize Kim Eun-jung's status on the team. They also tried not to include Kim Eun-jung in team training."

The coaching staff have denied the allegations.

The investigation will begin next week and will include officials from the ministry, the national Olympic committee and the team's home province of North Gyeongsang.

Broadcast Partners

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.