|▲ Kukkiwon (World Taekwondo Headquarters) / Chairman of the Board Lee Dong-sup|
(PowerKorea) Kukkiwon was founded in 1972 and has played the leading role in promoting this Korean martial art to the world. It laid the groundwork for globalization of taekwondo by holding the 1st World Taekwondo Championships and by establishing the World Taekwondo Federation in 1973. The Kukkiwon Taekwondo Demonstration Team set sail in 1974 and it started traveling the world to spread its spirit and skills. Kukkiwon continued the globalization by conducting Poomsae training, international seminars and academic interchanges such as the Global Taekwondo Leaders Forum. It has dispatched 42 taekwondo instructors to 41 developing countries and fostered about 11 million poom and dan holders worldwide. Kukkiwon recently elected former lawmaker Lee Dong-sup as the new chairman of the board. PowerKorea heard his aspirations through a written interview.
Q. Some say taekwondo is the initiator of Korean Wave (global popularity of South Korean culture). What contributions do you think it has made?
A. Obviously, taekwondo is being practiced in 210 countries by 150 million people in the world as of 2021. Since the foundation of Kukkiwon in 1972, it held the World Taekwondo Championships for the first time in 1973 and all scattered taekwondo organizations in South Korea gathered together under one Kukkiwon in 1978. Kukkiwon succeeded in listing taekwondo as an official event of the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics decided on September 4, 1996 at the 103rd IOC Meeting in Paris. All terminology used in taekwondo and taekwondo matches are uniquely Korean. So, I can say taekwondo being the initiator of Korean Wave is very appropriate.
Q. How popular is taekwondo in the world and what are your promotion strategies?
A. I can say taekwondo is being practiced almost all countries in the world. It is especially popular in China, Iran, Thailand, France, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Canada, Australia and the US. For those less popular, Kukkiwon has been dispatching taekwondo masters and instructors with support of the government since 2009. A total of 49 of them have been dispatched to 49 countries and the number will increase to 70 by the end of this year.
Q. Has Kukkiwon made any legal foundation to promote taekwondo?
A. Everybody knows taekwondo is the national martial art of South Korea. But when it came to legal basis, no one could speak out with confidence. Many taekwondo masters and officials of Kukkiwon endeavored to make it written on paper but faced resistance and indifference. I myself am a ninth degree black belt holder and I met more than 225 lawmakers to persuade and receive their signatures. Then on March 30, 2018, the Act on Promotion of Taekwondo and Taekwondo Park passed the National Assembly for partial amendment and taekwondo finally was recognized as the national martial art. It was such a touching moment.
Q. What is your reform plan of Kukkiwon?
A. Harmony among the staff and efficiency in work are the two key words during my term. Cooperation is a must for this as well as vibration and passion in what we are doing. Alongside this, I’m pushing forward building online platforms that can promote taekwondo to the world especially in this time of the virus spread.
Q. We learned that you are also working on turning Kukkiwon as an integrated global taekwondo organization.
A. I am. The Kukkiwon TF Team will build a new face Kukkiwon that can integrate and represent taekwondo leaders and organizations in 210 countries through active communications and exchanges. The team will bring up visions for future growth in accordance with the 50th anniversary of Kukkiwon next year that will include running international branch office in each respective country. When things go as planned, I expect it will turn a new chapter in the history of Kukkiwon.
Q. Why taekwondo gym numbers matter?
A. Because more numbers are directly connected to growth of taekwondo industry. More numbers mean more people are learning taekwondo and it naturally requires more instructors and masters which eventually bring a boom to the industry regional and global alike. In a way, each taekwondo gym is the very root of Kukkiwon as a whole.
Q. How do you see karate in relation with taekwondo?
A. The two are in competitive relationship. Karate is an official event of 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics but omitted in the 2025 Paris Olympics. Taekwondo, on the other hand, has been enjoying a long-run. However, in order to keep the official event status, we must keep on working for fairness in matches and popularity in daily lives. It is notable that more people learn taekwondo for mind and body training than winning medals in Olympics. In other words, promoting it as sport for all will keep the pace on track and affects positively the IOC.
Q. Tell us about the new emblem of Kukkiwon.
A. Many has pointed out that the existing emblem lacks intuition. So, the new emblem simplified the image with two men kicking high in the air surrounded by an octagon that symbolizes the spirit of taekwondo.
Q. Lastly, can you leave a word to our PowerKorea readers?
A. Taekwondo values more of manners and mind training than physical skills. Also, it lays a bridge for people in the world to engage. I believe the world will be a better place than now if people are equipped with this taekwondo spirit. As the chairman of Kukkiwon and also a ninth degree black belt holder, I will do my best to promote taekwondo to the world with better administration, creative projects and passionate implementation. Thank you.
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