Posted : 2013-02-22 16:44
Updated : 2013-02-22 16:44

Kim Jung-haeng to head KOC

New Korean Olympic Committee President Kim Jung-haeng smiles after winning the election Friday against ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker Elisa Lee at the Seoul Olympic Parktel. He earned 28 of 54 delegates' votes to replace former President Park Yong-sung. / Yonhap

By Jung Min-ho

Former judoka Kim Jung-haeng was elected as the Korean Olympic Committee's (KOC) next president Friday, overcoming a stiff challenge from Saenuri Party lawmaker and former table tennis star Elisa Lee.

The 69-year-old earned 28 votes from 54 delegates to Lee's 25 with one abstention. He becomes the first former athlete to head the country's top sports administration body. Kim previously ran unsuccessfully for the post in 2002 and 2008.

Kim has vowed to differentiate himself from the corporate leaders and bureaucrats who previously held the KOC presidency and says he will focus on improving the welfare and competitive environments for athletes. He also stresses increased exchanges with North Korea in the sporting realm and continuing the country's efforts to host major international sporting events, despite increasing criticism that the process has become a shopping spree.

''I will lead the organization in harmony with Lee's supporters," Kim said at a news conference after being elected. "I will lead the organization with all my strength.''

While the race between he and Lee was intense and ill-tempered, Kim claimed he was the winner of the fairest KOC vote ever.

"I would like to thank the people who maintained political neutrality," Kim added.

Referring to the International Olympic Commission's (IOC) decision to keep taekwondo in the Olympics ― made during the same meeting it decided to drop wrestling ― Kim said that communication and cooperation between the KOC and local sports federations will be important in sports diplomacy.

He also promised balanced development between popular spectator sports and less watched sports.

"We have to host international events for different sports, especially the ones that do not get much attention," Kim said.

The new KOC president has almost three decades of experience in sports administration. He was head of the Korea Judo Association from 1995 and the president of Yong In University until stepped down from both posts at the beginning of this month to concentrate on the election.

Lee failed to become the first female KOC president but she admitted her defeat in a subdued concession.

"I will accept the result as sports people's decision," the former table tennis world champion said.

"It was not easy to overcome the long-standing practice," the 59-year-old said in what appeared to be a jab at the long male-dominated organization.

"I hope Kim will lead the KOC, taking into account the voices of the 25 votes against him," Lee said.

She nonetheless vowed to work for the further development of sports in her position as a lawmaker.

After her playing career, Lee was active in sports administration, including serving the head of the Korea National Training Center ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Shee headed the KOC's Athletes' Commission and taught at the Yong In University before resigning from both posts at the start of the month to run for the KOC presidency.

Meanwhile, Kim's predecessor Park Yong-sung, who decided not to seek a second term, said he will continue to work for the development of the KOC wherever he goes.

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