Kim Jung-haeng, a veteran judo administrator, was elected the new president of the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) on Friday.
Kim became the 32nd head of the KOC after narrowly defeating Lee Elisa, a former table tennis world champion and currently a ruling party lawmaker. Kim earned 28 out of 54 possible votes cast by KOC delegates. Lee garnered 25 votes, while one voter abstained.
|Kim Jung-haeng earned 28 out of 54 possible votes cast by KOC delegates on Friday. (Yonhap News)|
Kim, 69, succeeds Park Yong-sung, who had been the KOC chief since 2009 and recently decided against a second term, citing health reasons. Kim's term is four years long.
This was Kim's third crack at the KOC presidency, after failed attempts in 2002 and 2008. Lee came up short in her bid to make history as the first female KOC president.
Winner of a judo silver medal at the 1967 World University Games, Kim is the first former national team athlete to take the top KOC post, which had been predominantly held by politicians and corporate executives.
Kim brings almost three decades of sports administration experience. He has been the president of Yong In University, a school best known for its judo programs, since 1994. He served as the president of the Korea Judo Association (KJA) from 1995 to earlier this month, when he quit to concentrate on the KOC election. Kim had also been the head of the Judo Union of Asia and the vice president of the International Judo Federation.
The race was much closer than anticipated. Kim had been heavily favored for his close ties with Park, while Lee entered the race with a less impressive administrative resume in her post-athletic career.
Kim thanked KOC delegates for their "fair and impartial" election and vowed to work together with Lee and her supporters to lead the KOC.
Kim said the operative word during his term will be "communication."
"I'd like to make the KOC an organization that can communicate," he said. "I will try to create an environment where regional sports federations and individual sports governing bodies can freely communicate with the KOC."
Kim noted South Korea's success in having hosted major sporting competitions, such as the Olympics, the Asian Games and the FIFA World Cup. He said the focus should shift to less glamorous sports.
"We have to try to host international championships for different sports, especially those that aren't as popular as major professional sports," Kim said. "We have to promote these sports and help them thrive."
Kim also said he hopes to encourage sports exchange with North Korea. The Koreas have previously marched together at the Olympic Games, though inter-Korean exchange, sports or otherwise, has been all but suspended in the past several years.
The new KOC head said he expects the new government in Seoul, to be led by President-elect Park Geun-hye, to try to revive inter-Korean exchange.
"I think we in the sporting world should also contribute to that end," Kim said. "If the two governments take steps, I'd be willing to offer my helping hand."
The KOC delegates are 55 heads of national sports federations, two South Korean members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) -- Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee and lawmaker Moon Dae-sung -- and the head of the Athletes' Commission under the KOC.
Two federations -- the Korea Ski Association and Korea Taekkyon Association -- have not yet elected their president. A third, the Korean Amateur Boxing Federation, is under the KOC's administrative control after it temporarily lost its International Boxing Association membership last August for failing to elect a new president. These three agencies weren't able to vote.
Lee Kun-hee didn't take part in the election, leaving the number of delegates voting in the election at 54. (Yonhap News)