Even if he ends up acquiring Chinese nationality in hopes of competing at the Beijing Winter Olympics, South Korean-born short track speed skater Lim Hyo-jun is unlikely to accomplish that goal because of international rules.
Lim, the 2018 Olympic champion in the men's 1,500 meters, announced Saturday he was undergoing a special naturalization process to acquire a Chinese passport. He had been going through a protracted legal battle over sexual harassment charges and decided he wouldn't be able to skate at the Olympics next year unless he switched allegiance.
However, because of a clause in the Olympic Charter put together by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Lim will need approval from South Korea to skate for his adopted country. And the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee (KSOC) is unlikely to grant Lim his wish, considering that he is trying to skate for a rival nation.
Under the Olympic Charter, an athlete who acquires a new nationality may only participate in the Olympics for his new country after at least three years have passed since the athlete last represented his or her former nation.
Lim's last international event for South Korea came in March 2019 at the world championships. The Beijing Olympics will run from Feb. 4 to 20 next year, meaning Lim will not be eligible.
The Olympic Charter allows for one exception -- an agreement among the relevant national Olympic bodies and the international federation may have that three-year period reduced or canceled.
In Lim's case, the KSOC, the Chinese Olympic Committee and the International Skating Union (ISU), would have to reach a deal. And that's probably not going to happen, a KSOC official said Tuesday.
"Given the impact his move will have on our national team and how it may leave a bad precedent, it doesn't seem likely that we'll allow him to compete for China at the Beijing Olympics," the official said.
The scandal-ridden skater was charged late 2019 after pulling down the pants of a male teammate and exposing a body part, with female skaters present, during practice. The Korea Skating Union banned Lim for one year, and the case reached court.
Lim was initially ordered to pay a 3 million won (US$2,630) fine in May 2020, but the appellate court found him not guilty six months later. The case is pending a final decision by the Supreme Court.
The Korea Skating Union (KSU) handed down a one-year suspension on Lim in August 2019, but the clock stopped last year before reaching the one-year mark while Lim was going through his legal process.
If the top court overturns the appellate court's decision, the suspension will restart, which will then rule out Lim's chances of skating for South Korea at next year's Winter Olympics and prompted his decision to seek Chinese nationality.
Lim won the gold medal in the men's 1,500m at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics three years ago. He added a bronze medal in the 500m.
Lim's head coach at PyeongChang, Kim Sun-tae, is now coaching the Chinese national team. Ahn Hyun-soo, a South Korean-born Olympic champion who acquired a Russian passport to become Victor An before the Sochi 2014, is Kim's assistant.
source: Yonhap News