Twin sister volleyball players suspended over bullying allegations

Twin sister volleyball players, 24, are suspended from South Korea’s national team after it emerges they were bullies at school

  • Lee Jae-yeong and Lee Da-yeong played for the nation’s biggest women’s team
  • The twin volleyball stars were accused by a web user of being school bullies
  • The online post alleged the athletes used physical violence and intimidation
  • South Korea has been hit with numerous sporting abuse scandals in recent years

Two twin South Korean women volleyball stars have been suspended from the national team over allegations of school bullying.

Lee Jae-yeong and Lee Da-yeong, 24, both played for the Heungkuk Life Insurance Pink Spiders, the biggest women’s team in the country, and were instrumental in securing South Korea’s place at the Tokyo Olympics. 

They were accused by an alleged former middle school teammate of bullying, as well as stealing money and threatening others with a knife.

Lee Jae-yeong (pictured left) and Lee Da-yeong (right), 24, both play for the Heungkuk Life Insurance Pink Spiders, the biggest women’s team in South Korea

Two twin South Korean women volleyball stars, Lee Jae-yeong and Lee Da-yeong (pictured in 2015), have been suspended from the national team over allegations of school bullying

The twin sister were accused of bullying last week by an online poster claiming to be a former middle school teammate, who listed 21 allegations including physical violence, stealing money, and threatening with a knife. 

At least four other victims endured similar abuse, the poster said. 

Volleyball is one of South Korea’s most popular spectator sports after the big three of baseball, golf and football. 

A few days after the initial post, another alumni revealed online that the sisters had ordered younger classmates to do the laundry, hitting and bullying them. 

The Lees admitted their ‘irresponsible behaviour in the past’ in an Instagram post and apologised.

Their club suspended them indefinitely on Monday.

The twin sister (pictured above) were accused of bullying last week by an online poster claiming to be a former middle school teammate, who listed 21 allegations

South Korea’s Lee Dayeong (pictured centre)) returns the ball during a match of the FIVB Women’s World Cup volleyball between USA and South Korea in Osaka on September 29, 2019

‘We are very sorry and feel deeply responsible for disappointing everyone who loves volleyball,’ the Pink Spiders said in a statement.

‘School violence is something that should never happen, and it cannot be tolerated for any reason.’

Hours later, the players were banned from the national team for an unspecified period, Yonhap news agency reported.

As well as their sporting prowess, the Lees have bolstered their celebrity status by appearing on various television programmes.

But the accusations over their past prompted widespread outrage in a country where bullying at school or in the workplace is a serious social problem.

South Korea is a regional sporting power and regularly in the top 10 medal table places at the summer and winter Olympics.

But in an already intensely competitive society, winning is virtually everything in its sports community – and physical and verbal abuse are rife.

A triathlete took her own life last year after suffering years of abuse from her coach and senior athletes, and a speed skater sued her teammate over a bullying controversy during the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

South Korea’s recent sporting abuse scandals 

Choi Suk-hyeon 

Ms Choi, a 22-year-old triathlete, took her own life last year after lodging a number of complaints over alleged abuse from her coaching staff. 

The talented athlete, who was selected for the national triathlon team in 2015 as a teenager, said that she endured years of abuse, but that her complaints were ignored by sporting authorities. 

In a journal she kept, Ms Choi wrote how she ‘shed tears every day’ and would ‘rather die’ after repeatedly being ‘beaten like a dog’, according to reports. 

Shim Suk-hee

In 2018, a South Korean star skater, Shim Suk-hee, revealed she had been abused and sexually assaulted by her coach for years.

Ms Shim said the coach had beaten her since from the age of seven – and had even broken her fingers with an ice hockey stick. 

She said the sexual assault started in 2014 when she was still a student and continued until shortly before the Pyeongchang Olympic games. 

In a file photo taken on February 22, 2018, Shim Suk-hee is seen at the women’s 1,000m short track speed skating quarter-final at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Game

Cho Jae-beom, the former speed skating coach, was later found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in jail. But he only admitted verbal and physical abuse against the athlete.     

Other athletes then came forward and Cho was eventually sentenced for assaulting Ms Shim and three other skaters.  

Kim Eun-hee

Kim Eun-hee, a former professional tennis player who represented Korea at Asian and Olympic Games, revealed how female athletes in the country had silently suffered sexual abuse by their coaches for years.

In an interview in 2018, she spoke about her experience of repeatedly being raped by her coach as a schoolgirl.

‘It took me years to realise that it was rape,’ she told AFP at the time. ‘He kept raping me for two years…he told me it was a secret to be kept between him and me.’ 

The coach was eventually dismissed after some parents complained of his ‘suspicious behaviour’. But he was simply moved to another school with no criminal inquiry.

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