Investigation launched into abuse claims by "Garlic Girls"

FILE - In this Feb. 25, 2018 file photo, Kim Eun-jung, of South Korea, yells during their women's curling final in the Gangneung Curling Centre at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea. Five-member women's curling team accused former Korean Curling Federation (KCF) vice-president Kim Kyong-doo of verbal abuse and team coaches of giving unreasonable orders and subjecting their private lives to excessive control. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 25, 2018 file photo, Kim Eun-jung, of South Korea, throws during their women's curling final in the Gangneung Curling Centre at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. Five-member women's curling team accused former Korean Curling Federation (KCF) vice-president Kim Kyong-doo of verbal abuse and team coaches of giving unreasonable orders and subjecting their private lives to excessive control. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko, File)

SEOUL, South Korea — The darlings of South Korea's Winter Olympics are back in the headlines eight months after their stirring run to a curling silver medal in Pyeongchang.

South Korea's sports ministry on Wednesday announced a joint investigation with the national Olympic committee into allegations by the so-called Garlic Girls of abuse.

The five-member women's curling team that shot to international renown in February and sparked unprecedented national attention for their sport sent a letter to the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee last week to outline their allegations.

The women, from a remote province famous for its garlic, captured hearts in a country that hardly knew curling before and became sought-after models for commercials and inspired countless online memes and catch-phrases.

The attention was so great during the games that their coach took away their cellphones to shield the curlers from any pressure. The Garlic Girls ultimately lost to Sweden in the gold medal match.

In the letter, Kim Eun-jung, Kim Seon-yeong, Kim Yeong-ae, Kim Cho-hee and Kim Yeong-mi accused former Korean Curling Federation (KCF) vice-president Kim Kyong-doo of verbal abuse and team coaches of giving unreasonable orders and subjecting their private lives to excessive control.

"The human rights of the athletes are being violated," the athletes, the first Asian team to win a curling silver, wrote. "We've reached a point where it has become unbearable."

The curlers also accused coaches of holding back prize money and trying to sideline captain Kim Eun-jung after learning of her plans to start a family.

The coaches "tried to rule Kim Eun-jung off the team after she got married in July," the letter said. "They separated the skip and the team captain's role to minimize Kim Eun-jung's status on the team. They also tried not to include Kim Eun-jung in team training."

The coaching staff have denied the allegations.

The investigation will begin next week and will include officials from the ministry, the national Olympic committee and the team's home province of North Gyeongsang.

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

People also read these

Hong Kong leader: Reject threats to China's...

Oct 11, 2017

Hong Kong's leader says residents are obliged to reject threats to China's sovereignty, in what...

Federer beats Nadal to win Shanghai Masters title

Oct 15, 2017

Roger Federer extended his winning streak over Rafael Nadal this year to four matches after beating...

Column: Golf's big-money Asian swing is worth the...

Oct 24, 2017

Column: Too much golf? Not for those who see Asian swing as an opportunity to cash in

Missing bookseller hits out at Sweden in arranged...

Feb 10, 2018

A detained Swedish bookseller at the center of escalating row between Western governments and...

Fiji wins 4th straight Hong Kong 7s beating Kenya...

Apr 8, 2018

Fiji has won a fourth successive Hong Kong Sevens after pouncing on Kenya's ill-discipline and...