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IOC VP Kim Charged with Corruption, Suspended -- January 24, 2004

LONDON, January 24. IOC vice president Kim Un-yong was suspended from all Olympic duties Friday amid corruption accusations against him in South Korea, according to a story by the Associated Press' Stephen Wilson and published in The WasHington Post.

One of the most powerful officials in international sports, Kim faces the possibility of becoming the highest-ranking IOC member to be expelled. He narrowly escaped expulsion in the Salt Lake City bid scandal five years ago.

The International Olympic Committee's executive board provisionally stripped Kim of "all the rights, prerogatives and functions deriving from his IOC membership" pending investigations by South Korean authorities and the IOC ethics commission.

South Korean prosecutors have been investigating Kim over accusations he took bribes and kickbacks from former South Korean Olympic officials and embezzled funds from taekwondo organizations.

Prosecutors also questioned Kim over the origins of $1.5 million in foreign currency found in a private safe during a raid on his home last month.

Acknowledging he "sometimes got careless" and "did things wrong," the 72-year-old Kim resigned as a South Korean lawmaker and chief of the world taekwondo federation Jan. 9. Four days later, Kim collapsed. He has been hospitalized in Seoul for treatment of high blood pressure and dizziness.

Charges of corruption against Kim were first leveled by British journalist Andrew Jennings a decade ago in his book, "Lords of the Rings" and again in subsequent books "The New Lords of the Rings" and "The Great Olympic Swindle." But they were swept under the rug and ignored during the reign of IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch.

Two weeks ago, IOC president Jacques Rogge asked the ethics commission to investigate Kim's financial scandal.

An IOC member can be suspended by the executive board for violating the committee's ethics rules or "jeopardizing the interests of the IOC." Expulsion requires a two-thirds vote by the full 100-plus membership. The next IOC general assembly will be in Athens in August on the eve of the Summer Games.

William Schechter, Kim's lawyer in New York, said the IOC violated the principle of presumed innocence.

"This action against him is harsh, unjust and reflects more unfavorably upon its leadership than on the subject of its wrongful action," he said.

Kim came close to being expelled in 1999 after an IOC inquiry into the Salt Lake City case. Six members were thrown out and four resigned for accepting favors from leaders of the winning bid for the 2002 Winter Games. Kim, the highest-ranking official implicated in the scandal, received a severe warning.

Kim's son, John Kim, was accused of accepting a sham job arranged by Salt Lake City bid leaders and charged with lying to investigators. John Kim, who spent seven months in custody in Bulgaria, was released last month after U.S. prosecutors dropped extradition proceedings.

The elder Kim has been a member of the IOC since 1986. He played a senior role in Seoul's staging of the 1988 Olympics, helped taekwondo become an Olympic medal sport in 2000 and heads the General Association of International Sports Federations. Kim ran for IOC president in 2001 but finished a distant second behind Rogge.

Kim has been under fire at home since last summer when he was accused of undermining South Korea's bid for the 2010 Winter Games in favor of his own ambitions. Pyeongchang finished second to Vancouver, British Columbia, while Kim defeated Norway's Gerhard Heiberg in the vice presidential election.