YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

BEHIND THE RINGS: Inside the Olympic Movement

S. Korean Is Symbol of IOC's Resiliency

Leadership: Despite reprimand for his role in scandal, Kim Un Yong remains a major force in the Olympic movement.


SEOUL — The lord of a once-obscure martial art that premieres at the Sydney Games.

The highest-ranking Olympic official implicated in the Salt Lake City corruption scandal.

A potential leader of the entire Olympic movement.

South Korea's Kim Un Yong is all those things. And perhaps more than anyone on the 113-member International Olympic Committee, Kim exemplifies resilience and the welter of personal connections that often drives IOC decisions and finances.

Although he received what the IOC called the "most serious of warnings" for his role in the scandal, Kim remains a power broker in the world of sport and a close advisor to South Korean President Kim Dae Jung. Although no longer a solid bet to replace IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, it is still not inconceivable he might get elected next year by his peers.

How can that be? Kim has for years been president of the South Korean Olympic Committee, of the World Taekwondo Federation and the General Assn. of International Sports Federations.

A wealthy businessman, he has invested heavily--in both time and money--in building support around the world, particularly in the Third World. As he put it in interviews: "We are living in a world of human relations."

Kim, 69, got his warning after an IOC inquiry concluded that the Salt Lake City bid team had helped subsidize his son's job with a local company and that Kim had used his influence to help arrange piano performances for his daughter with the Utah Symphony.

The IOC inquiry said it was "highly unlikely" Kim would not have known of the arrangement involving his son; the elder Kim has said he did not know. The younger Kim was indicted last year by a federal grand jury but moved to Seoul before charges were filed.

Kim is an IOC Executive Board member, a confidant of Samaranch's. He speaks passionately about the extended "Olympic family" and is generous with his money and that of his organizations.

The South Korean Olympic Committee provided $796,190 worldwide for equipment and coaches between 1995 and 1999, according to Kim's records. During the same period, the taekwondo federation spent $1.05 million worldwide.

Kim also has worked to bind taekwondo to the IOC. In April, at a meeting in France, Kim appointed four IOC members to the taekwondo federation's executive council: Nat Indrapana of Thailand, Toni Khouri of Lebanon, Ivan Dibos of Peru and Tomas Sithole of Zimbabwe.

What's in all this for Kim?

Taekwondo, virtually unknown 20 years ago, will become a full-fledged Olympic sport in Sydney. And the IOC will allocate about $3.7 million to Kim's taekwondo federation.

Then there's the grail itself: the IOC presidency. But can he get the votes?

"He's quite generous in providing support," one leading African IOC member said of Kim, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "Most people feel they want to reciprocate at some point."

Kim said he has not made up his mind about running, yet does nothing to diminish speculation.

Meanwhile, Kim insists that his motives are pure, not political. For instance, he said, having the four IOC members on the taekwondo board will help develop the sport worldwide.

Questions about his ties and his way of doing business, he said, would seldom arise were it not for the Salt Lake City scandal. Stressing that he was not speaking about himself, Kim said: "I feel sorry for the IOC member who is respected and does good, who volunteers, and who has to be scrutinized for this volunteer service."

Los Angeles Times Articles