The Korean Olympic Committee has sparked controversy by recommending that hundreds of athletes take part in a three-day training program at the Korean Navy's Pohang camp. This initiative aims to improve the mental endurance of athletes as they prepare for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
While sports federations have used mandatory military training for athletes in the past, this is the first time the Olympic Committee has officially sanctioned the practice. The decision comes after South Korea finished third in the medal standings at the October Asian Games, behind China and Japan.
Military camp and stronger mental resilience
The president of the South Korean Olympic Committee, Lee Ki-hyeon, suggested the military camp as a way to improve the athletes' mental toughness. He expressed his intention to participate in the training along with other leaders and athletes.
However, this plan has been met with criticism and ridicule on social media and online portals in South Korea. Many question the effectiveness of military training for athletes and consider the initiative outdated and regressive.
Details of the training program, which is scheduled for 18.-20. December, are still being finalized in cooperation with the Olympic Committee and the Korean Marine Corps. Previous pre-Olympic camps for sports such as fencing, wrestling and handball have included physically demanding activities such as launching and carrying 140-kilogram inflatable boats.
Rejection by some sports federations
Some federations are embracing this initiative, others have already backed out due to scheduling conflicts. The South Korean Wrestling Federation and the Breakdancing Federation announced that their athletes will not participate due to commitments in the competition.
It is important to note that South Korean athletes who win gold medals at the Asian Games or any medal at the Olympics are exempt from mandatory military service. The policy, however, remains a point of contention in the country, generating ongoing debates about fairness.
Ultimately, the effectiveness of this military training program for South Korea's Olympic hopefuls remains to be seen. While some believe it will create mental strength, others doubt its relevance and question its potential impact on athlete performance. We will see if this initiative will contribute to the success of South Korea at the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024.