South Korea’s “Garlic Girls” curling team were exploited by their coaches who stole tens of thousands of dollars of prize money from the Olympic medal-winners, the sports ministry said Thursday.
The curlers, who come from a town famous for garlic farming, were rank outsiders at South Korea’s Pyeongchang Games last year, but became a media sensation as they swept their way to Olympic silver.
But last November they publicly accused their coaches of verbal abuse and intrusive control and claimed they had not received their prize money from previous competitions, prompting public outrage and a probe by the sports ministry.
The team claimed the coaches were running Korean curling like a family fiefdom: the husband of their head coach, Kim Min-jung, is a former national men’s team coach, while her father Kim Kyung-doo is a former vice president of the Korean Curling Federation (KCF).
Following a five-week investigation, the sports ministry said Thursday that the allegations made by the curlers were “mostly true”.
“It was confirmed that there was excessive control over privacy by the coaches… who strongly berated the athletes if they spoke with their previous coaches or athletes from other teams,” the ministry said, adding that the coaches censored gifts and fan letters.
The curlers were not paid properly as the coaches had “mismanaged” around 94 million won (US$83,500) of the team’s income, it said.
They also embezzled around 30 million won, according to the ministry.
The probe also found that the coaches had evaded taxes and hired unqualified family members to work on the national team.
The ministry said the case will be taken to the police.
The curlers are also known as “Team Kim” for their shared surname, and use food-based nicknames for ease of identification: the captain is Annie — a brand of yogurt — while Kim Yeong-mi is Pancake, Kim Kyeong-ae is Steak, Kim Seon-yeong is Sunny — as in “sunny side up” — and Kim Cho-hee is Chocho, a type of cookie.
The team’s giant-killing feats at the Olympics, despite limited funding, boosted the popularity of their little-known sport in South Korea.
But despite their Olympic silver they failed to win the national trials in August, ruling them out of international competition and sending them plummeting down the world rankings as a result.
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But he also, to the Republicans’ delight, left some ambiguity about how much Trump had been involved in the effort to leverage the aid, saying that he had “presumed” Ukraine’s announcement of the investigations would release the hold. And he noted that, in one phone call the president — as the scheme was slowly being uncovered — Trump angrily denied there was a quid pro quo.
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"I think the Democrats had a good morning. I don't think they had a good afternoon," said Santorum. "I think what when the Republicans actually started questioning Sondland about the details, I think it fell apart a little bit."
"How so?" asked Chris Cuomo.
"He said the president never said any of these things to him," said Santorum. "In fact, what the president said, he quoted what the president said is, no, there's no quid pro quo. What he says is, well, I'm surmising, this is what I'm just sort of gathering. Did anything come from the president? No, it came from Rudy Giuliani."
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In the wake of EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland's testimony, things are getting more difficult for Republicans faced with a vote on impeachment.
"Even if [the numbers] don't move, the problem is going to be a lot of these people have to run for re-election, letting the president off the hook when it's pretty clear what happened," Reid said. "This is pretty simple, and if I'm Cory Gardener (R-CO), I'm not feeling great."
Brian Williams noted that Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) is one of the many Republicans "who's leaving town on a fast horse." If anyone could be pealed off by Democrats, Williams thinks it is Hurd.