Members of the South Korean women's curling team that won a silver medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, better known by their nickname Garlic Girls or Team Kim, reaffirmed Thursday that they will not work with current management following allegations of abuse.
The curling team comprised of skip Kim Eun-jung, lead Kim Yeong-mi, second Kim Seon-yeong, third Kim Kyeong-ae and candidate Kim Cho-hee, said that it can't condone the management officials' action to dominate the team.
"We've been going through a hard time in despair and depression as we felt anxious from pressure, verbal abuse, irregular and unfair treatment in the name of family," Kim Seon-yeong said. "If this kind of situation continues, Team Kim can't exist."
The curlers, registered under the Gyeongsangbukdo (North Gyeongsang Province) Sports Council, recently sent a letter to the Korean Sports and Olympic Committee claiming that the athletes have been abused by their head coach, Kim Min-jung; her husband, Jang Ban-seok; and her father, Kim Kyung-doo.
Kim Kyung-doo is a former vice president at the Korean Curling Federation who built the country's first curling-only stadium in Uiseong, North Gyeongsang Province, also the hometown of Team Kim curlers. Jang was head coach for South Korea's mixed curling team at the PyeongChang Olympics. With Kim Min-jung, the two were considered big contributors to Team Kim's success.
The curlers claimed that the management, under Kim Kyung-doo, verbally abused them and tried to rule Kim Eun-jung off the team after she got married in July. They also insisted the prize money that they earned from the international competition was never distributed properly.
Following the curlers' appeal, the KSOC and the sports ministry announced that they will conduct a special audit together on the issue.
"We can't work together with a management that tries to divide the team," Kim Seon-yeong said. "We hope the truth will be revealed after the audit."
When asked why they decided to speak out at this time, the curlers said they thought they had tolerated enough after the Olympics.
"We originally thought if we wait about a year, they may change, but they didn't," Kim Eun-jung said. "We then prepared for the national team qualification, but things got worse."
Team Kim curlers said they needed new management that can lead the team in the right direction.
"We need a new team management that can train us well and lead the team," they said. "As curling athletes, we want to continue playing our sport and aim for a bigger goal at the Beijing Olympics."
The curlers also emphasized that they need to continue training at Uiseong Curling Training Center, the facility controlled by Kim Kyung-doo. After the PyeongChang Olympics, Team Kim failed to win
the national team trial in August for the 2018-19 season.
"The coaches didn't train us, and we had little time to train," Kim Yeong-mi said. "One family has dictated this curling community in North Gyeongsang Province and caused this problem."
At the press conference, Team Kim refuted the management's explanation on the allegations.
Jang recently said the prize money was used only for team operations and the coaches got signatures from the curlers after showing the bank account statement in July. But the curlers said that the bank statement with the athletes' signatures didn't show details of where the prize money was spent, and they still don't know the money transactions between 2015 and February 2018.
"Jang never consulted with us when discussing the detailed use of the prize money," they said. "We still don't know the whereabouts of the donations from Uiseong County citizens."
The curlers said the management tried to damage Kim Eun-jung's status within the team even before she got married.
"Jang said the coaches were thinking of changing the skip because Kim Eun-jung was married, but its attempt took place even before the Olympics," they said. "They tried to separate us and forced us to make unreasonable position changes."
After the Olympics, the curlers claimed that letters and gifts from fans were always delivered open by Kim Min-jung.
"We understand that she can open gifts delivered to the team, but why did she always have to open letters and gifts delivered to individual athletes?" they said. "Kim Min-jung mainly worked on external affairs regarding the team, but we can't really remember what she did for this team." (Yonhap)