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Taekwondo master Rhee Jhoon Goo dies at the age of 86

Posted May. 02, 2018 08:13,   

Updated May. 02, 2018 08:13


The “Father of American Taekwondo” Rhee Jhoon Goo, commonly known as Jhoon Rhee, died on Monday at the age of 86 at his home in Arlington, Virginia. He was famous for being one of the most successful Korean-American and teaching celebrities like the world heavyweight boxing champion Mohammad Ali and martial artist and actor Li Xiaolong.

According to Rhee’s official website “JhoonRhee.com,” Rhee, who was born in Asan, South Chungcheong Province in 1932, developed interest in Taekwondo after South Korea’s liberation from Japan in 1945 since traditional Korean martial arts had been banned during Japanese colonial rule. He moved to Seoul to study at the age of 15. He enrolled in “Chung Do Kwan” without telling his father, who worked at a small shop at that time, and started to learn Taekwondo there. Being a small kid, he used to be harassed by other big kids but Taekwondo helped him gain confidence.

Rhee opened his own martial arts studio in Washington, D.C. in 1962 and started to become famous as “Taekwondo Master.” He also opened a Taekwondo club for members of Congress and taught almost 300 U.S. senators and representatives, such as Tom Foley and former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich. Former U.S. President George Bush once said in an interview that “Jhoon Rhee has contributed to promoting South Korea and improving its image by teaching countless U.S. politicians.” Rhee became famous after teaching Li Xiaolong. Upon the suggestion of Li Xiaolong, Rhee featured in a movie made in Hong Kong playing the underground leader of a group of patriots in Japanese-occupied Korea.

Recognizing Rhee’s service in teaching Taekwondo for more than 40 years, the mayor of Washington, D.C. declared June 28, 2003 as Jhoon Rhee Day. The U.S. government chose Rhee as one of the 203 most successful immigrants to the United States in 2000.

Rhee’s physical condition deteriorated severely when he developed shingles seven years ago. The bereaved family includes his wife Theresa Rhee and four children including Jimmy Rhee, Special Secretary of Minority Affairs. His memorial service will be held at the Mclean Bible Church on May 8, 11:00 a.m.

Eun-A Cho achim@donga.com