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NHRCK Chairperson’s Statement on Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games
"Hope to see the shift in paradigm from 'winning the game' to 'enjoying the game'"
- NHRCK Chairperson’s Statement on Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games -
- Deeply touched by the changes in the culture where people began to put more value on the efforts put in by the athletes than the results... Hope to see the same enthusiasm during the Paralymic Games -
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea(Chairperson Young-ae Choi) was deeply touched by the pure passion the athletes have shown during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which has come to a close on August 8, and the support the public has shown to the athletes. The Olympics not only showed the essence of the sportsmanship, but it also provided the important momentum to form human rights-friendly sports culture in Korea.
For a long time, Korea’s focus in the international sports events was on enhancing national prestige through the acquisition of medals, especially gold medals. For this, Korea introduced elite athlete system, where the government was directly involved in managing and training few talented athletes, and the system contributed to Korea ranking in the top 10 at the Olympics.
However, such competitive environments have created the atmosphere where the outcome of the game is more prioritized than the athletes’ rights as a human being. The violation of human rights was easily accepted and practiced by some of the coaches and managers in the name of ‘achieving goals’, and this affected not only the adult athletes but also the young athletes who were still in school. The Commission also identified, through ex officio investigation in 2020, that there is a wide-spread culture of abuse and control among coaches and athletes, senior and junior athletes.
The main reason for the establishment of Special Investigation Task Force on Human Rights in Sports was due to the tragic case where the violence and sexual abuses were inflicted upon the athletes in the national skating team. The NHRCK painfully accepted the fact that the Commission failed to prevent the tragedy in advance, and has established the Task Force three years ago in order to monitor the human rights violation in the field of sports. The Task Force have put forward opinions, made policy recommendations and filed complaint for more than 40 cases concerning human rights violations in sports. The Task Force identified the problems through series of investigations in different sports and vulnerable parts in the sports organizations. Special Investigation Task Force on Human Rights in Sports has also put forward the policy recommendations to make improvements to the situation. The Commission asked the President of the Republic of Korea to take part in ‘fundamentally reforming the way sports are perceived’, and started the campaign to make changes to the public’s perception on sports with the slogan ‘human rights first, sports has to be fun.’
There have been measures taken and policies made to bring positive improvements and the Commission is happy to see the change. The 'National Sports Promotion Act' now includes the clauses to 'protect the rights of athletes', instead of 'enhancing national prestige', and the 'Sports Ethics Center' was established to prevent and provide adequate help in violence and sexual abuse issues in sports. The 'Basic Sports Act', which was enacted and promulgated as of August 10, mentions 'Sports Rights', the rights for all people, not just the professional players, to enjoy sports without discrimination.
In the midst of all the progress, the Korean national team and the public have also proved that the positive change in sports is possible during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Though earning a medal is a priceless achievement, the people also started to appreciate the efforts put in by the athletes and the process it took to become an Olympian behind the scenes. The public enjoyed the games regardless of the outcome, showing solidarity and humanity towards the athletes who didn’t get to bring a medal home. When such vibe is widely accepted, as the time goes by, Korea will be prepared with strong foundation to foster human rights in sports, and the paradigm shift in the field of sports will no longer be a far-fetched story.
Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games is set to begin on August 24. Months before the event, in April 2021, the Commission has issued ‘the policy recommendation for enhancing and protecting the rights of the Paralympic athletes.’ The National Human Rights Commission of Korea wishes all the best for the athletes at the Paralympic Games and hopes the public will show unwavering support and warm encouragements towards those who are competing.