Problems experienced from the government by those who practice/advocate Taekwondo; the government's stance toward the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) and the World Tae Kwon Do Federation (WTF); whether the ITF is banned or restricted; whether it is considered an enemy organization by South Korea; treatment of ITF members by the government and security forces; whether high-ranking members/masters of this group are at particular risk of mistreatment by the government [KOR39813.E]

While no reference could be found to problems experienced from the government by practitioners or advocates of Taekwondo, the following information may be of interest.

Several articles report on South Korea's hosting of international Taekwondo competitions (The Korea Herald 1 Apr. 2002; ibid. 15 Apr. 2002; ibid. 23 Apr. 2002; ibid. 8 Aug. 2002). For example, an 8 August 2002 article reported that approximately 2,000 competitors and officials from 55 countries were expected to meet in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, from 14 to 19 August 2002 for the third Korea Open Chuncheon International Taekwondo Campionship (ibid.). As well, a 1 April 2002 article reported that Korea's first international women's open Taekwondo competition was to be held in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, in April 2002 (The Korea Herald). The competition was to include approximately 700 Taekwondo practitioners and officials from some 30 countries (ibid.).

Further, the headquarters and governing body of the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) is located in Seoul, South Korea (St. Pertersburg Times 10 Feb. 2001; WTF n.d.). The WTF's president, Kim Un-yong, is also a South Korean International Olympic Committee member (The Korea Herald 26 Aug. 2002). As well as headquartering the WTF, South Korea also has a national Taekwondo body called the Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA) (Korea Times 9 Sept. 2002).

According to a 15 December 2000 article, Taekwondo has two governing bodies: the "pro-North International Taekwondo Federation (ITF), and the pro-South World Taekwondo Federation (WTF)" (The Korea Times). A 9 September 2002 article similarly refers to the "North Korea-led" ITF and the "South-led" WTF (Korea Times).

An article in the December 1992 edition of Blackbelt Magazine reported that the ITF was established because the South Korean government wanted Taekwondo to be its national sport, however, the Federation's founder, Hong Hi Choi, "fell into disfavor with government officials" when he made an "unauthorized" visit to North Korea. The article goes on to report that the ITF was subsequently "ousted by the government and replaced by the World Taekwondo Federation" (Blackbelt Magazine Dec. 1992).

A 29 June 2002 article reported that "in 1971, the South Korean government, afraid that tae kwon do would be used against it, refused to let General Choi's federation teach tae kwon do in North Korea" and that, following Choi's resulting voluntary exile and settlement in Canada, South Korea established the WTF (The New York Times).

While locating the North Korean office in Pyongyang, the ITF's website does not list a "nationally amalgamated organisation" in South Korea (n.d.). Attempts by the Research Directorate to contact the ITF's head office were unsuccessful within the constraints of this Response.

A 26 September 2000 article reported that the president of the WTF had "dismissed" an appeal from the ITF for unification (Sydney Morning Herald). The article, which reported that half of ITF's 40 million members live in North Korea, further reported that the president had "dismissed the ITF as a splinter group" and, while not desiring the unification of the ITF and WTF, stated that he would "help the North Korean Taekwondo association make an exodus form ITF and into the WTF" (ibid.). According to the article, the ITF and the WTF have remained "poles apart" since the WTF was established in the early 1970s (ibid.).

Reportedly, the ITF, which has preserved the "martial-artistic" portions of Taekwondo (Global Taekwondo Network 9 Nov. 2000), follows its own taekwondo competition rules (The Korea Herald 26 Aug. 2002). Only those countries that practice WTF competition rules are qualified to participate in the Olympics (ibid.). Purportedly, the WTF developed in a "sport-centred" manner (Global Taekwondo Network 9 Nov. 2000).

No reference to whether South Korea considers the ITF to be an "enemy organization," to how the government and security forces treat members of the ITF, or to whether high-ranking members/masters of the ITF face particular risk of mistreatment from the government could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Blackbelt Magazine. December 1992. David W. Clary. "Political Rivalries in the Martial Arts: Can't We All Get Along?" [Accessed 19 Sept. 2002]

Global Taekwondo Network. 9 November 2000. Joon-Sung Kim. "'I'll Help to Unite TKD Associations,' Said Chairman Kim Jung II." [Accessed 20 Sept. 2002]

International Taekwondo Federation (ITF). n.d. "Nationally Amalgamated Organisations, Asia." [Accessed 20 Sept. 2002]

The Korea Herald. 26 August 2002. "South, North Korean IOC Members Agree to Promote Sports Exchanges." [Accessed 18 Sept. 2002]

_____. 8 August 2002. "International Taekwondo Event to Start in Chuncheon Next Week." [Accessed 18 Sept. 2002]

_____. 23 April 2002. "International Taekwondo Compeition, Cultural Festival to Kick Off in Anyang." [Accessed 18 Sept. 2002]

_____. 15 April 2002. "Int'l Taekwondo Competition To Open in Yeosu Friday." [Accessed 18 Sept. 2002]

_____. 1 April 2002. "Women's Taekwondo Competition to Kick Off." [Accessed 18 Sept. 2002]

Korea Times. 9 September 2002. Kim Cheong-Won. "North Asks South to Send Taekwondo Demo Team." [Accessed 19 Sept. 2002]

_____. 15 December 2000. "2 Koreas Make Last-Ditch Efforts for Deal." [Accessed 19 Sept. 2002]

The New York Times. 29 June 2002. Ari L. Goldman. "Choi Hong Hi, 83, Korean General Who Created Tae Kwon Do." (NEXIS)

St. Pertersburg Times. 10 February 2001. Gail Hollenbeck. "A Man of the Cloth, With a Black Belt." (NEXIS)

The Sydney Morning Herald. 26 September 2000. Rebecca Thurlow. "Kim Dismisses ITF Appeal For Unification." [Accessed 19 Sept. 2002]

World Taekwondo Federation (WTF). n.d. "Notice on Office Move." [Accessed 17 Sept. 2002]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases


Internet sites including:

Amnesty International


Human Rights Watch

World News Connection

Search engine: