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IOC Official Is Sentenced

June 03, 2004|Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writer

Kim Un Yong of South Korea, an International Olympic Committee vice president, was sentenced today in a Seoul courtroom to 2 1/2 years in prison on embezzlement and bribery charges.

Prosecutors had been seeking a seven-year term against Kim, for years perhaps the most influential figure from Asia in the Olympic movement, alleging that he had embezzled more than $3 million from the Seoul-based World Taekwondo Federation and other sports organizations.

He was also ordered to pay about $672,000 in fines. An appeal is likely, a source close to Kim's defense strategy said, citing issues of "impartiality and experience in interpreting sports contracts."

Kim, 73, had his Olympic privileges and duties suspended Jan. 23 in the wake of the case against him in Seoul. The verdict today raises the possibility that he could be expelled.

He was given a "most serious" warning in connection with the Salt Lake City corruption scandal. He nonetheless retained considerable influence within the IOC. At the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, he played a key role in dampening emotionally charged boycott talk by some South Korean officials after results in some events, particularly short-track speed skating, went against South Korean athletes.

Last year, he was elected to one of the four IOC vice-president slots.

In recent weeks, in a show of solidarity, a number of IOC members wrote letters to the South Korean courts urging leniency in Kim's case. One expressed "respect" for Kim's dedication to sport as well as "his contribution to world peace."

Kim played a leading role in organizing the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul and was instrumental in seeing taekwondo, a martial art featuring kicking, become an Olympic sport.

Kim was made an IOC member in 1986; from 1988 through 2001, he served on the IOC's policy-making executive board, from 1992 to 1996 as a vice president.

On Jan. 9, Kim resigned as a member of South Korea's national assembly and as head of the WTF, acknowledging he "sometimes got careless" and "did things wrong."

But before his arrest, in a telephone interview, he attributed the case against him to the fierce nature of South Korean politics and said he had committed no criminal wrongdoing.

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