S. Korea speed skater hospitalised for anxiety after Olympic bullying outcry

Seoul (AFP) - A South Korean speed-skater has checked herself into hospital for mental health treatment after facing a deluge of criticism for shaming a team-mate during the Winter Olympics, reports say.

Kim Bo-reum suffered "mental anxiety and nervousness" after becoming the target of public anger following the controversial women's 500m team pursuit.

Kim and Park Ji-woo prompted fury when they blamed team-mate Noh Seon-yeong for falling behind and costing them the chance of a medal in the event in Pyeongchang.

Their actions and comments were seen as a betrayal of team spirit, and prompted widespread outrage in a country where bullying at school or in the workplace is a serious social problem.

More than 600,000 South Koreans signed a petition to the presidential Blue House calling for the pair to be disqualified from the national team.

"Kim has complained of mental anxiety and nervousness even after the Olympics were over," multiple reports quoted a representative at her agency, Bravo & New, as saying.

She checked into the hospital in her home city Daegu on the recommendation of a doctor, who also told her mother to seek therapy, they added.

"The trauma Kim received during the Olympics was bigger than we thought," the agent said. "Her mother was also greatly distressed and they checked into the hospital together as recommended by the doctor."

Kim, 25, and Park raced far ahead of Noh in the team pursuit, where the slowest of the three skaters' times is the one that counts.

Kim then snubbed the tearful Noh and blamed her for their failure.

"We were skating well," Kim said, before sniggering and adding: "But the last skater (Noh) couldn't keep up and we had a disappointing score."

Kim later won the silver in the women's mass start, and appeared shaky afterwards as she knelt in front of the crowd in what looked like an apology.

But that did nothing to assuage the public anger, with some fans urging authorities to strip her of her medal.

One online comment said: "I was left aghast seeing these athletes blatantly ignoring and shaming Noh while the whole world was watching."

Another added: "Those bullies -- whether at school, workplace, or sports -- should never be forgiven. I'm saying this as a victim of school bullying myself."

Speed skating is one of South Korea's top winter sports, responsible along with short track for 13 of the country's 17 medals at the Games, even though the skating association is said to be riven by factionalism.

Her shamed team-mate, Noh, blamed the skating association for the incident in a recent interview, accusing it of discriminating against athletes and banning some from training with their team-mates if they suffered a dip in form.

Kim's agency could not immediately be reached for comment by AFP.