Chang Ung, a North Korean representative to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), plans to visit South Korea in October to attend inter-Korean taekwondo events, according to foreign reports.
Chang’s scheduled trip is re-igniting controversy over which of the two Korea’s has the right to operate the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF).
Along with the Seoul-based World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), the ITF has served as a key institution in promoting Korea’s traditional martial art globally after it was established in 1966.
The Korean-language edition of the Voice of America (VOA) reported that Chang, who is also North Korea’s purported ITF president, will come to Seoul on Oct. 6.
Chang is scheduled to tour well-known taekwondo sites from Oct. 3 to 8 across the Korean Peninsula, according to the U.S. media outlet.
It said Jung Woo-yong, a Korean American taekwondo grand master, has been
organizing the project with support from other international taekwondo practitioners, mainly those from the U.S, to promote peace on the peninsula.
The VOA reported Jung drew support from Chang and other taekwondo officials during his visit to Pyongyang in June.
“I think Chang is the right person to facilitate active inter-Korean exchanges in sports and culture, given that he’s a heavyweight in international sports administration,” Jung said.
Without elaborating the details, the VOA said participants for the various events will gather in Pyongyang on Oct. 3 and join a sports exchange program for four days.
They are scheduled to cross the demilitarized zone and arrive in Seoul on Oct. 6.
They will travel to Taekwondowon, a mega-sized taekwondo complex, in Muju, North Jeolla Province as well as a stele built under the orders of Choi in Seogwipo, Jeju Island, before they leave the country on Oct. 8, according to the VOA.
The stele, located at 29th Army Infantry Division, was built in 1953 to show Choi’s passion for the sport during his service there as the division commander.
The Ministry of Unification, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, denied the VOA’s report.
“They have not asked us, have not consulted with us, and have been making announcements on their project solely on their own,” ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-hee said.
A taekwondo practitioner in Seoul also said he will take legal measures against those responsible if the disputed events take place in South Korea.
“That includes unification ministry officials, and I do mean it,” said Oh Chang-jin, claiming he serves as the acting president of the ITF on the South Korean side.
He claimed North Korea has been claiming the right to operate the ITF after stealing key information from the ITF’s pro-North Korean officials when Choi died.
Choi, who helped North Korea join the ITF, died in Pyongyang in June 2002 during his visit there.
Since then, Chang has been serving as the ITF chief for the North Korean side.
South Korea has operated its ITF office separately under the leadership of Oh.
According to Oh, the ITF’s South Korean side has over 110 member countries, while its North Korean side has less than 30 members.
The ITF moved its headquarters from Seoul to Toronto, Canada in 1972 when Choi sought political asylum there after having a political conflict with the then-Army general-turned-dictator Park Chung-hee.
This triggered South Korea to launch the WTF in 1973, which now has over 200 member states.
북한의 국제올림픽위원회(IOC) 위원인 장웅 국제태권도연맹(ITF) 총재가 오는 10월 남한을 방문할 계획인 것으로 알려졌다.
미국의 태권도 전문 잡지인 ‘태권도타임스’의 정우진 대표는 16일 미국의소리(VOA) 방송과의 전화통화에서 장웅 총재가 10월6일 한국에 입국한다고 밝혔다.
정 대표는 ‘올 가을 미국인들이 주축이 된 세계 태권도인들이 남북한 군사분계선을 넘는 평화행사를 준비중’이라며 ‘장웅 총재도 합류하기로 했다’고 설명했다.
‘남북한 종단 행사’에 참가하는 세계 태권도인들은 10월3일 평양을 방문해 3박4일간 스포츠 교류 활동을 한 뒤 6일 군사분계선을 넘어 서울에 도착, 8일까지 무주 태권도원과 제주도 주먹탑 등을 돌아볼 예정이다.
장 총재는 이들과 함께 10월6일 군사분계선을 넘어 서울에서 제주도까지 내려가면서 대부분의 행사에 참여할 계획인 것으로 알려졌다.
다만 남한 정부 당국자와의 만남 여부 등은 아직 결정되지 않았다.
정 대표는 ‘IOC 위원이기도 한 장웅 총재가 세계 스포츠계에서 갖는 무게감을 고려할 때 남북한 문화교류의 물꼬를 틀 수 있는 적임자가 아닌가 싶다’고 말했다.
정 대표는 지난달 19∼23일 평양을 방문해 장웅 총재, 김경호 조선태권도위원회 위원장 등 북한 관계자들을 만나 ‘남북한 종단 행사’에 대한 지원을 약속받았다.
남한의 통일부는 행사에 대한 공식 신청이 들어오면 검토하겠다는 입장이다. (연합뉴스)