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Asian Games Report : Ueberroth's Ticket Claim Doesn't Fly in Seoul

September 27, 1986|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

SEOUL, South Korea — Ancient Seoul was surrounded by a protective wall, which had eight gates. Among the most popular tourist attractions in the city are four of the reconstructed gates, the Great South Gate, the Great East Gate, the Gate of Transformation by Light and the Purple Mist Gate.

But the gate that most Americans associate with this country is Koreagate, the bribery scandal in Washington during the administration of the late President Park Chung Hee.

Government officials here, still embarrassed when reminded of that affair, hoped that South Korea had left behind its image as a country that has to buy international influence.

Then came "Made in America," an autobiography by Peter Ueberroth, former president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee.

In three paragraphs that might have been overlooked in other parts of the world but exploded off the pages here, Ueberroth offended the Sports Ministry, the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee (SLOOC) and the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) with the bold statement that this city had won the bid for the 1988 Olympic Games by bribing members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

"Each bid city gave away shopping bags filled with trinkets and brochures," Ueberroth wrote of the last-minute maneuvering by officials from Seoul and Nagoya, Japan, during the 1981 IOC meetings in Baden Baden, West Germany.

"Seoul also gave away, quietly, two first-class round-trip tickets to each IOC member," Ueberroth continued. "The tickets were easily redeemed for cash; many were."

Ueberroth then named other factors in Seoul's victory before adding, "But the free tickets had already turned the trick."

In interviews this week during the Asian Games, two high-ranking members of the South Korean delegation that went to Baden Baden reacted angrily to Ueberroth's claim.

Choy Man Lip, a UCLA graduate who is the KOC's vice president and secretary general, initially denied that tickets were distributed, then said that if they were, it was not by the KOC but by Korean Airlines.

KAL's chairman, Cho Choong Hoon, was one of the two corporate members of the Seoul delegation.

The other was Chung Ju Yung, chairman of Hyundai, a car manufacturer.

No one yet has suggested that IOC members were given cars.

"This is not only an insult to us but to the IOC," Choy said. "Most IOC members are well-to-do, reputable people. You can't bribe them. You certainly can't bribe them by giving them airline tickets.

"KAL might have done it for business purposes; I don't know. But I do know that no one from the Korean Olympic Committee gave out airline tickets. We did, however, give out ginseng tea."

Chyun Sang Jin, KOC vice president in 1981 and now an SLOOC adviser, admitted that IOC members had received airline tickets but would not name the source of them. He denied Ueberroth's claim that many of the tickets were redeemed for cash.

"None of the IOC members cashed their tickets," he said. "Some have not yet come to Seoul, but we are extending their tickets. That holds true even for the representative of Sudan, who no longer is an IOC member.

"Besides, this is not the first time that such a gift has been made to IOC members. I cannot understand why Mr. Ueberroth would try to leave the impression that we did something improper."

Ueberroth, commissioner of baseball, was not available for comment. Rich Levin, a spokesman in Ueberroth's office and a collaborator on Ueberroth's autobiography, said, "The book speaks for itself."

In discussing Seoul's victory over Nagoya, the only cities bidding for the 1988 Summer Games in the wake of Montreal's billion-dollar loss in 1976 and the boycott of Moscow in 1980, officials here prefer to accentuate the positive.

Entering the Baden Baden meetings, the foregone conclusion was that Nagoya would get the Games. Although obviously a vibrant, modern city, Seoul was believed to have too many security problems, considering not only the North Koreans but also political dissidents within the city.

Seoul's only solid support was believed to be from Third World countries in Africa and South America, which were eager for the Games to be in an emerging nation.

But Seoul's bid was underestimated, especially by confident Nagoya officials.

By all accounts, Seoul made a splendid presentation, highlighting the construction of facilities that already was under way. Nagoya's facilities were on paper.

Also, Seoul officials were able to deflect pointed questions by the two IOC members from the Soviet Union, one of 37 countries with which South Korea does not have diplomatic relations.

When it became apparent that Seoul was gaining momentum, Japan's IOC member, Masaji Kiokawa, gained the floor and, instead of using the time to praise Nagoya, attacked Seoul in a speech that some IOC members interpreted as elitist and even racist. Earlier in this century, South Korea was a Japanese colony.

"He was very obnoxious," Choy said of Kiokawa. "He was confident Nagoya would win. But when he saw some of the colleagues who had promised to vote with him start to go the other way, he got upset and made some negative comments. I think he got carried away. It backfired."

Nagoya was doomed when a group of about 20 environmentalists arrived from the city to demonstrate against the bid.

As one KOC official joked this week, "If we had been smarter, we would have saved money on the airline tickets to the IOC members and flown in the environmentalists instead."

The vote was, 52-27, in favor of Seoul. Even a couple of Soviet Bloc countries, Romania and Hungary, are believed to have supported Seoul in secret balloting.

Since then, a financial bonanza created by Olympic interest here has made winners of many people.

Among them is Ueberroth, whose book was a best-seller in Seoul.

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