Jail for Korea IOC figure

REUTERS , SEOUL

Fri, Jun 04, 2004 - Page 5

International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice president Kim Un-yong was yesterday sentenced to two and a half years in jail on corruption charges by a court in South Korea, a court official said.

The 73-year-old Kim, long one of the most powerful officials in the IOC, was arrested while in hospital in January on charges connected with his leadership of the South Korean National Olympic Committee and the World Taekwondo Federation.

"Kim Un-yong's sentence is two and a half years in jail and a fine of 788.29 million won [US$677,100]," said an official at the Seoul District Court. At Kim's previous court hearing on May 13, prosecutors asked the court to jail Kim for seven years.

Prosecutors had charged him with taking 3.8 billion won (US$3.27 million) from taekwondo federations and receiving bribes from sports officials and businesses. Taekwondo is South and North Korea's national martial art and an Olympic sport.

Kim's lawyer, Oh Se-chang, said his client would appeal.

"Whether Kim is guilty or not, I think today's court verdict is too cruel, considering his age and what he has done for his country," Oh said by telephone.

"His actions and business conduct is rooted in South Korea's dictatorship period of the 1970s and 1980s. It is unfair to judge his conduct by today's values," he said.

Kim is the latest of a series of prominent South Korean public figures to be caught up in investigations of murky financial transactions that were common in politics and businesses, but which Seoul has started to crack down on.

Businessmen, bureaucrats, dozens of politicians and a senior army general have all been prosecuted this year for bribery, embezzlement or other graft charges. Many received suspended sentences.

During Kim's three-month trial, a number of businessmen appeared as witnesses for both the prosecution and defense. Many foreign sports officials appealed for clemency in view of Kim's decades of work in the Olympic movement.