South Korea: Condoms immediate anger at Winter Youth Olympics

Organizers of the 2024 Gangwon Winter Youth Olympics have come below strain from a South Korean dad and mom affiliation following experiences they had offered condoms to the contributors, who’re aged between 13 and 18. Over 1,800 younger athletes are collaborating within the Games.

In an announcement issued on January 23, six days after the official opening ceremony within the South Korean province of Gangwon, the National Federation of Parents’ Organizations demanded that no extra condoms ought to be handed out and that the organizing committee challenge an official apology.

A failure to take action, it added, would imply that the Youth Olympics ought to be “abolished.”

The native organizing committee in Gangwon has declined to touch upon the difficulty. However, the International Olympic Committee defended the motion, telling DW that “[d]istribution of condoms in the Youth Olympic Villages is part of the health education program that is available to athletes during their stay.”

Sympathy from the general public

Local media in South Korea appear to have largely ignored the objections of the dad and mom’ group. But analysts famous that the complaints illustrated the attitudes of many South Korean dad and mom and their reluctance to debate points associated to sexuality with their youngsters.

Park Jung-won, a professor of worldwide Law at Dankook University, stated there may be nonetheless a deep vein of  conservatism that runs via the fashionable and rich Asian nation.

“It seems to me that the general public at least somewhat understands the outrage of this parents’ group over the Olympic organizers distributing free condoms,” he stated. “This is because South Korean society still holds conservative views towards parents’ authority over their teenagers, while South Korean law also strongly supports parental rights over minors.

“I feel a major variety of residents not less than emotionally sympathize with the sturdy anger expressed by these conservative teams,” he added.

South Korea’s age of consent among highest in the world

Organizers confirmed on January 23 that 2,500 condoms had been made available for free at the athletes’ village, at Gangneung-Wonju National University, with an additional 500 condoms sent to athletes’ accommodation at the Jeongseon High1 resort, The Korea Herald reported.

The parents’ association issued its response the same day, demanding an apology for making contraceptives available to children and minors. 

“Mothers are not looking for their youngsters to be tempted to have intercourse with a purpose to get pleasure from a second of delight,” they said.

The age of consent in South Korea is 20, one of the highest in the world.

‘An act that undermines the spirit of the Olympics’

The group warned that condoms don’t prevent all sexually transmitted infections.

“Distributing condoms on the Youth Olympics, which ought to be a platform for fostering wholesome our bodies and sound minds, is an act that undermines the spirit of the Olympics,” they stated in an announcement.

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“Does the mission of the Olympic spirit, which is to construct a peaceable and higher world by educating youth via sport, imply we also needs to worth sexual curiosity or instinctive habits?” the press release asked.

“If the explanation behind offering condoms to younger athletes is [because of their] curiosity, does that imply that’s acceptable to encourage youngsters to hold out theft if they’re interested in it?” it added.  

Taboos of Confucian society

Free condoms were first provided to athletes at the 1988 Summer Olympic Games. Interestingly, the 1988 Summer Olympics was held in the South Korean capital, Seoul. At the time, the organizers said the initiative showed the International Olympic Committee’s commitment to safe sex and sexual health.

The practice has been continued at every Olympics since, including at the 2018 Buenos Aires Summer Youth Olympics and the Lausanne Winter Youth Olympics in 2020. Officials said that 450,000 condoms were provided at the 2016 Rio Olympics, although that was partly motivated by a measure against the spread of the Zika virus in South America.

Lim Eun-jung, an associate professor of international studies at Kongju National University, also said South Korea is still “very Confucianist-oriented.” Most interpretations of Confucianist philosophy discourage discussions of sex, praise chastity, especially among women and limit sexual practices to marriage.

“But I don’t see this challenge as attracting a number of consideration from the general public, whereas the tv information and the papers haven’t [reported] this challenge in depth,” she added.

With solely a day left earlier than the closing ceremony on Wednesday, the picture of the Youth Games seems largely unhurt by the condom row. According to Dangkook University’s Park, the precise impact of the dispute might be to focus on the safe-sex message in a nation the place the difficulty is usually hushed up.

Edited by: Darko Janjevic