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Angry Koreans Demand Prison Terms For Two U.S. Swimmers

September 26, 1988 GMT

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ Police on Tuesday will question two U.S. Olympic swimmers who are accused of stealing a marble lion’s head from a Seoul hotel. Angry South Koreans are demanding the pair be sent to prison.

Police officials were quoted by Seoul newspapers as saying the men - Doug Gjertsen and Troy Dalbey - will not receive any special consideration when they are questioned about the theft Saturday of the $830 ornament.

The decision on whether to prosecute the Americans will be made by the prosecutor’s office after police submit a report.


Gjertsen and Dalbey, who each won two gold medals, could be sentenced to 1-10 years in prison if convicted on charges of aggravated theft.

U.S. Olympic officials said the incident was a foolish prank and kicked the pair off the American team.

Police and Seoul newspapers said Monday they have been flooded with calls from irate people demanding the two Americans receive prison sentences.

Newpapapers, which referred to the incident under the headline ″Ugly Americans,″ said many readers were calling to complain, and the publications backed the calls for tough treatment.

The newspapers continued to bristle with denunciations of U.S. press coverage of the Olympics and South Korea. Commentators charged the U.S. media was trying to blacken the nation’s image.

The influential Chosun Ilbo said in an editorial, ″The theft case involving the U.S. swimmers clearly shows the overbearing attitude of Americans.″

Newspapers compared the swimmers to a brawl on Thursday when South Korean boxing officials attacked a referee after a Bulgarian boxer was named the winner over local favorite Byun Jong-il.

Byun and some officials were suspended for the incident.

″The U.S. media should know that such incidents have greatly hurt the pride of the Korean people who have worked hard to prepare for the Olympic Games for the past seven years, and as a result it is proliferating anti- American sentiments,″ said newspaper commentator Chung Tong-woo.

The Korean media and some government politicians have played up the arrest of the swimmers in an apparent attempt to divert attention from the boxing incident.

The media and many people have denounced NBC for its coverage of the incident, claiming the American network played it up to embarrass South Korea.


Newspapers have complained that the U.S. media failed to focus on the incident involving the swimmers in the same way that it dwelt on the boxing incident.

″How is NBC, which reported the momentary violent act in the boxing in such a manner, going to explain the theft case involving athletes from its own country?″ Joong-Ang Ilbo said.

The boxing incident was extensively covered by television around the world. But NBC is the only foreign network seen in South Korea, where it is shown on a U.S. military network.

The United States is South Korea’s main ally, but there has been some tension between the two nations over trade and political issues.

Some South Koreans claim Americans want to dominate them, but many observers say Korean resentment reflects growing pains as it emerges from years of dependence on Washington.