Park Joo-hee, Korea’s first international Doping Control Officer (DCO), is Korea’s leading figure in international sports. With more than 10 years of experience in international sports games as DCO, she now serves as the Secretary General at International Sport Strategy Foundation (ISF). As a powerful female leader in the sports field, Park had much to share about her experience as a pioneer of doping control in Korea.
Doping control, which tests athletes’ unethical use of banned performance-enhancing drugs, is an indispensable process in international sports leagues. Doping is prohibited in international sports leagues as it is viewed as a violation of the spirit of sportsmanship.
Park was the first to venture into the field of sports doping in Korea in 2007. At that time, not many people recognized the importance of doping control. In fact, it was not until 2006 that the Korean Anti-Doping Agency (KADA) was founded and started to deal with doping officially.
“Back then, I was studying for a master’s degree in Adapted Physical Education at Ewha, which aims to provide physical education to special needs children,” Park said. “Since drug therapy is deeply connected to the field that I was studying, I got a chance to join KADA when it was founded. That was the start of my career in doping control.”
As doping control was a new field back then, Park was working in the international department at KADA. Being the first Korean DCO to participate in major sport events such as the Olympics and Asian Games, Park explained that she gained hands-on experience in international games.
“My expertise in doping control and experiences in international games shaped me into the person I am today,” Park commented. “I did not limit my job to doping control. Rather, I tried to broaden my perspective based on my specialty and establish international networks.”
From KADA to Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and World Anti-doping Agency (WADA), Park broadened her field and actively engaged in international stage. Currently, Park is working hard to support young sport leaders in Korea and provide platforms on international sports networks as the Secretary General of ISF.
ISF is a non-profit foundation within the remit of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, which strives to build harmonious relationships between international sports organizations. The President of ISF is Ryu Seungmin, the Olympic Champion and IOC (International Olympic Committee) member. ISF aims to promote relationships and cooperation between countries through sports diplomacy. They are also focused on developing Korean sport by collaborating with Korean Sport & Olympic Committee and Korea Paralympic Committee.
“Sport has the power to bring people together and inspire them to work together towards a better world,” Park commented. “We believe sport is one of the best means to connect people. Not only can it be used as a soft power tool for governments to achieve public diplomacy goals, but it can also define relationships and interactions of various kinds.”
For example, Park noted that sports can promote cooperation between countries, ranging from friendship between individuals to international relations. She highlighted that relation and communication are the most important values in sports diplomacy.
When asked to give some advice to Ewha students, Park replied that being ready for the jobs that you want to do is the most important.
“It is only when you try to do something concrete in actual fieldwork that you will know what you are good at and bad at,” Park said. “This is something you cannot learn from books or news. You have to jump into the actual field to know what you need.”
Park also mentioned the importance of networking. Although too much networking might not be beneficial, she emphasized that information regarding the jobs that you want to do derives from relevant networks.
“Many sports events were initially planned to take place this year, but due to COVID-19, many of them are either postponed or cancelled,” Park commented. “I wish the sports community to get through this well together.”
Along with that, Park noted that ISF supported Korea’s successful bid for the 2024 Youth Winter Olympics. As this is like a legacy project from the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games, she sincerely hoped the 2024 Youth Winter Olympics to be hosted successfully. Park is also looking forward to the joint bid to host the 2032 Seoul-Pyongyang Olympic Games.
“As DCO, my personal goal is to make Korea a doping-free country,” Park concluded. “I hope people pursue the value of ‘Play true,’ which is at the heart of true sportsmanship.”