Former South Korean Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Hee-boem Lee is expected to become new Chief of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Games after former POCOG President Yang-ho Cho surprisingly stepped down from his position Tuesday after playing a strong role in moving the Games’ organization forward after a slow start.
Lee began his career as a government official in 1972 and served as Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy from 2003 to 2006 before taking executive positions at various institutions and companies including the Korea International Trade Association, the Korea Employers Federation, STX Energy and STX Heavy Industries. He is currently an adviser of LG International Corporation.
A POCOG statement said that Executive Board and General Assembly meetings to officially appoint Lee as the new President will be held “soon”, then the decision will need to be approved by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Republic of Korea.
Yang-Ho Cho serves as chairman of the Hanjin Group, and made his shocking decision to resign as one of the group’s companies, Hanjin Shipping, reportedly faces critical financial issues. He said he will focus his efforts on the restructuring and stabilization of Hanjin Shipping.
The change will be a blow to to the organizing committee with just 21 months before the cauldron will be lit in PyeongChang at the opening of the Olympic Winter Games. POCOG officials said Lee’s candidature has been proposed quickly “in order to minimize the vacancy” at this formative stage of organizing the Games.
Cho became head of POCOG in August 2014, and has been recognized for putting the Organizing Committee back on track, managing critical issues such as the delayed venue construction, dispute on the location of the Olympic Stadium, marketing sponsorship recruitment, and the controversy over moving venues following Olympic Agenda 2020.
In February 2016 he led the successful hosting of the FIS Alpine World Cup at the new Jeongseon Alpine Centre overcoming many doubts regarding the first official test event for the Organizing Committee.
He was also instrumental, as Chief, in winning the nation’s bid to host the Games when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) elected PyeongChang in 2011.
In a statement Cho said, “for the past two years I have truly put forward my very best efforts to work with every member of the Organizing Committee to prepare a successful Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2018. I can proudly say that POCOG has become a strong team, and the challenges we have overcome have allowed us to achieve success at our first official test events this past February”.
He added, “I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the Korean people for their support of PyeongChang 2018. I also thank the central government, Gangwon Province, the International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee, Korean Olympic Committee, Korean Paralympic Committee, and all the international and national federations for their cooperation.”
The PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games take place February 9-25, 2018 with more than 90 countries and 3,000 athletes competing. The Paralympics take place March 9-18, 2018. About 50 countries and 670 athletes will be competing.