Olympics Ousts 5 Koreans for Punching Out Referee : A National Shame, Says Seoul Paper
Three South Korean boxing officials and two assistants were thrown out of their own Olympics today for attacking a New Zealand referee in what the sport’s top international official called “the most disgraceful incident I ever have seen in boxing.”
An assistant coach, the trainer, a boxing official and two Olympic helpers were suspended for storming the ring earlier in the day and punching and kicking referee Keith Walker, who assessed two possibly pivotal penalty points against Korean bantamweight Byun Jong-il.
The sense of national shame at the boxing brawl, much of it seen on television throughout the world, was summed up by the English-language Korea Herald.
“Shame, scandal rock Games,” it said in a front-page banner headline.
The International Amateur Boxing Assn. (AIBA from its French initials) announced the disqualifications and also rejected a Korean protest to take the victory away from Alexandar Hristov of Bulgaria.
“We are very sorry about what happened this morning,” said AIBA President Anwar Chowdhry of Pakistan. “AIBA has no excuse to offer. It was the most disgraceful incident I have ever seen in boxing, and I have no words to defend it.”
Chowdhry said he discussed the incident with International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch and with officials of the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee and received assurances that it would not be repeated.
“It was with these assurances that the competition was allowed to resume tonight,” Chowdhry said.
The boxing association initially said a Korean referee-judge was suspended, but the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee (SLOOC) later listed the five as a coach, a trainer, a member of the Korean Boxing Federation executive board and two SLOOC operations personnel. Contrary to reports on NBC-TV at the time, no security personnel were involved, the organizers said.
No action was taken against the team’s head coach.
Byun was also suspended indefinitely from international competition for staging a bizarre, 67-minute sit-in in the ring to protest the decision.
The Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee apologized for the “disgraceful behavior,” said security would be tightened and vowed “no irregular incidents will occur again.”
The Korean coaches threw several punches at Walker, hitting him at least once despite efforts by fellow referees to shield him in a corner.
“They were kicking and punching and pulling my hair out,” Walker said at Kimpo Airport as he left to return to New Zealand. “I was punched in the back by the Korean coach.”
Several other Koreans--including the Olympic helper--also jumped into the ring and tried to attack Walker, while the team manager stood on the ring apron urging the largely Korean crowd to join the fracas.
“I suggested I leave the country,” Walker said when asked whose idea it was. “It was a complete disaster in respect to the crowd reaction.”
Kim Sung-hyun, president of the Korean Boxing Assn., apologized for the brawl and said he would “resign from all boxing posts after the Olympics to take responsibility.”
The incident came midway through the morning session (Wednesday night in the United States) following a 119-pound bout between Byun and Hristov that was frequently interrupted by Walker cautioning the fighters for head butts and holding. After repeated butts, Walker issued two warnings against Byun, which cost him points that the Korean coaches felt were the winning margin.
“I really don’t believe that I did a bad job,” Walker said. “I’ve seen the bout again. I believe I controlled it in the way I should have. I have no regrets.”