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`I Want to Unify South and North Korean Taekwondo`

Posted March. 31, 2009 10:48,   


One of the two leading world governing bodies of the Korean martial art taekwondo is seeking to unify with its leading rival.

“Taekwondo was originally one. It has been divided for more than 36 years but now is the time to reunite. So I seek integration with the World Taekwondo Federation,” said Choi Jung-hwa, chairman of the International Taekwon-Do Federation.

Choi yesterday held an exclusive interview with The Dong-A Ilbo at the Grand Intercontinental Hotel in Seoul.

As a preliminary step toward consolidation of the two bodies, he said he will relocate his organization’s headquarters in Vancouver, Canada, to South Korea. The international federation will also hold its world championship in South Korea next year.

Pyongyang said it will host the event in 2011.

Instead of immediate integration, Choi proposed the creation of a new organization overseeing the two bodies first and seeking coexistence between the two taekwondo styles.

He said he wants to diversify taekwondo for further expansion along the lines of wrestling, which has Greco-Roman and freestyle.

The international federation has not reached an agreement with its rival, but the latter has no reason to object to integration, Choi said, adding he will negotiate with world federation officials in his visit to Seoul.

The international federation was founded by Choi’s father, the late Gen. Choi Hong-hi, who also served as its chairman. The elder Choi fled South Korea in 1972 after a disagreement with then President Park Chung-hee and relocated the organization’s headquarters to Canada in 1974.

Choi Jung-hwa has led the international federation since 2003.

The world federation was formed in 1973 in Seoul, a year after Choi Hong-hi went into exile. Since the international federation began teaching North Korean-style taekwondo in the 1980s, the two bodies have remained at odds.

“My father wanted integration with the World Taekwondo Federation though he built unintentional ties with North Korea. The North took advantage of our federation. Though he could not fulfill his hope because of differing political ideologies, he would agree to this integration if he were alive,” Choi Jung-hwa said.

“All political challenges have been addressed, and I believe the (South) Korean government will actively support our integration.”

yjongk@donga.com niceshin@donga.com