Kim Yu-na may be another scandal victim

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Suspicion is rising that the government disadvantaged Olympic champion figure skater Kim Yu-na because she would not cooperate with the scandal-ridden manipulative ties of President Park Geun-hye.

KBS TV reported Saturday that Kim had been on Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism blacklist for turning down a ministry invitation to attend a public trial of “Neulpum calisthenics” in 2014.

The exercise routine was developed by Cha Eun-taek, a commercial director and close acquaintance of the president’s confidant Choi Soon-sil.

The report said Kim rejected the invitation because the event did not fit her image. Her agency also said, “We did receive an invitation for the event, but Kim couldn’t make it because she was preoccupied with promotion activities for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics and the 2016 Youth Olympics.”

The president and two rising athletes ― national rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae and gymnast Yang Hak-seon ― attended the trial on Nov. 26, 2014.

From that point on, in 2015 Kim reportedly was excluded from candidates for “sports hero,” which the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) nominates every year to honor athletes who promoted Korea with their achievements.

In an online poll of support for the 12 final candidates, Kim received up to 82.3 percent support. But she was exempted from the final screening because she was too young ― a rule that did not exist in the first place.

KBS said an acquaintance of Jang Si-ho, Choi’s niece, witnessed the ministry’s possible avenge on Kim. Jang’s acquaintance told KBS: “I heard Jang saying ‘Kim is now branded as a traitor by the ministry.'”

The committee dropped the age limit after protests from Kim’s fans, who called the result unreasonable, and Kim was chosen as a sports hero in 2016.

Cha’s “Neulpum calisthenics” provoked controversy in 2014, because the ministry had already asked the Korea Institute of Sports Science (KISS) to develop a nationwide choreography activity for the public.

Over the two years of studies and experiments, the institute had completed “Korea calisthenics” at a cost of 200 million won ($ 170,000).

But “Neulpum calisthenics” was put on trial on Nov. 2014.

The ministry explained that it chose Cha’s project because it involved more dynamic movements. The ministry denied that any questionable person was involved in the decision.

Cha, who is under arrest for allegedly winning state-run projects in cultural areas and leading the ministry’s key initiatives ― including creating the exercise routine ― with the help of his ties to Choi, is suspected of having influenced the ministry’s decision.

Choreographer Jung A-reum ― a fitness star who worked with Cha ― also revealed last month that Cha had asked her to create an exercise routine that the public could enjoy, and that a ministry official told her to lie about her involvement that she was the one in charge of the project.

Meanwhile, Son Yeon-jae’s agency Galaxia SM website has crashed under high traffic volumes on Sunday evening, as the suspicion spilled over to Son, whom netizens suspect to have benefited from the ministry for complying with the invitation. (Hong Dam-young, The Korea Times)

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