Angry South Koreans flooded police and newspapers with telephone calls Monday demanding two American Olympic swimmers be given long jail sentences for theft.
Police said they received a flood of calls from people demanding U.S. gold medal swimmers Doug Gjertsen and Troy Dalbey be prosecuted on charges of stealing a marble lion's head worth $830 from a Seoul hotel last Saturday.The two, who were removed from the U.S. Olympic team for their antics, are to be questioned by police Tuesday. The Prosecutors' Office will then decide whether to press charges.
Police officials, who declined to be named, said callers were demanding the Americans be jailed and warning authorities against letting them return home unpunished.
Seoul newpapapers, which referred to the incident under the headline "Ugly Americans," said many readers were calling to complain. Papers backed the calls for tough treatment.
Gjertsen and Dalbey, who each won two gold medals, would face one-to-10 years in prison if convicted on charges of aggravated theft. U.S. Olympic officials apologized for the incident and said it was a foolish prank.
Seoul newspapers continued to bristle with denounciations 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.
Newspapers compared the swimming incident to a brawl last Thursday when South Korean boxing officials attacked a referee after a Bulgarian boxer was named the winner over local favorite Byun Jong-il.
"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 up the incident to embarrass South Korea.