Olympic swimmer Sports star 'targeted' in growing South Korea scandal

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Olympic swimmer Park Tae-Hwan is the latest figure to be caught up in the influence-peddling scandal play

Olympic swimmer Park Tae-Hwan is the latest figure to be caught up in the influence-peddling scandal

(Yonhap/AFP/File)

South Korea's snowballing influence-peddling scandal has threatened to engulf one of the country's leading sport stars after prosecutors confirmed Friday they were investigating claims an Olympic swimmer was targeted.

Park Tae-Hwan is the latest figure to be caught up in an affair that could see President Park Geun-Hye impeached.

The president is accused of colluding with her former confidante, Choi Soon-Sil, who allegedly leveraged her personal relationship with Park to coerce donations from big firms to two non-profit foundations which were then used for Choi's personal gain.

Now Park Tae-Hwan has claimed he was targeted by the former vice sports minister, Kim Chong, who has been arrested for helping Choi extort corporate "donations".

Park, who won a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, said Kim threatened in May to cut him off from corporate sponsorship should he compete in Rio.

"I was so scared back then as he was such a high-ranking official", Park said.

It remains unclear why Kim Chong attempted to stop Park from going to Rio but the athlete said the threat hampered his preparation for Rio, where he performed poorly.

An opposition lawmaker reportedly said Kim took a dislike to Park after the official visited the national athletes' training centre in 2014.

An audio recording of the alleged threat made by Kim has been handed to prosecutors.

"It's true that we've launched a probe into the allegations", a spokesman for the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office told AFP Friday.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency has also reported rumours another Olympic gold medallist, figure skater Kim Yuna, was picked on by government officials after she turned down an invitation to a calisthenics workout event attended by President Park in 2014.

However, at a Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Wednesday, she denied she felt she had been unfairly targeted.

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