"Too pretty" label mars South Korean boxing starlet's win

Thu May 9, 2013 11:33pm EDT
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By Narae Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - When romantic actress Lee Si-young swapped her glamorous roles in South Korean dramas for boxing gloves in a bid to win an Olympic medal, her victories triggered a storm of protest that has marred her unexpected success in the ring.

The 31-year-old, better known for her roles in TV shows such as "Wild Romance" and "Boys Before Flowers", had tears of joy in her eyes when she defeated 19-year-old Kim Da-som by 22 points to 20 in the 48 kg (106 lb) class at the South Korean national team tryouts in late April.

Her win, however, triggered a bitter battle in which the Korean Amateur Boxing Federation (KABF) was accused of giving Lee an unfair advantage in a bid to use her celebrity status to boost its fan base at the expense of the sweat and passion of her relatively unknown opponent.

"The match was preposterously biased - if the umpire gave Lee Si-young's slaps on the wrist 22 points, then Kim should have been given at least 50 points," Byun Hee-jae, a conservative political commentator and a self-proclaimed boxing fan, said on his twitter feed.

"This country has gone so crazy that being pretty gets more points even in boxing."

The boxing federation, though, said that selecting who is going to represent the nation cannot be manipulated or bribed.

"Play the video and you will see that Kim scored less valid punches than Lee. Lee's face is quite clean - no major bruises or swelling. She even went out for photo shooting two days after the match," said KABF senior manager Choi Hee-kuk.

Lee, who has been boxing since 2010, and her manager declined to comment, despite multiple attempts to contact them. They referred inquiries to officials at the Incheon City Boxing club, where she is a member.   Continued...

Lee Si-young (R) prepares for her match in the 48 kg (106 lb) class at the South Korean national team tryouts in Chungju, southeast of Seoul April 24, 2013. REUTERS/Lee Byung-chan/Newsis