Originally posted at WHITE DRAGON DOJANG
If there are reasons not to train in the International Taekwon-Do Federation style of martial arts or join the organization, one is that General Choi Hong Hi (1918-2002), the so called “Father of Taekwondo” by ITF enthusiasts, was obviously a Communist sympathizer. Worse, he was a North Korean “Juche” style Communist sympathizer. This is apparent in his flight to North Korea to bring his martial art there to teach soldiers and others the ITF Taekwon-Do style. He was such a sympathizer that he thought it was absolutely necessary to create a mid rank black belt form called “Juche.” Wikipedia state
“Juche (or chuch’e) is a Sino-Korean word which is hard to translate. Literally, it means ‘subjectivity’ or ‘agency’, and in political discourse has a connotation of ‘self-reliance’ and of ‘independence’.
The official line of the North Korean regime attributes the origin of Juche to Kim Il-Sung’s experiences in the ‘Anti-Imperialist Youth League’ in 1930 in his “Liberation struggle” against Japan. However, the first documented reference to Juche as an ideology did not appear until 1955, in a speech given by Kim Il Sung entitled On Eliminating Dogmatism and Formalism and Establishing Juche in Ideological Work. The speech had been delivered to promote a political purge similar to the earlier Yan’an Rectification Movement in China.
Hwang Jang-yeop, Kim’s top adviser on ideology, ‘discovered’ Kim’s 1955 speech in the late 1950s when Kim, having established a cult of personality, sought to develop his own version of Marxism–Leninism into a North Korean creed.”
It is interesting that Juche was first publicly promoted in 1955, the same year Taekwondo’s formal name was established. Maybe Choi saw a revolutionary link between Taekwondo and Juche. The official website of North Korea, The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, explains Juche:
“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is guided in its activities by the Juche idea authored by President Kim Il Sung. The Juche idea means, in a nutshell, that the masters of the revolution and construction are the masses of the people and that they are also the motive force of the revolution and construction.
The Juche idea is based on the philosophical principle that man is the master of everything and decides everything. It is the man-centred world outlook and also a political philosophy to materialize the independence of the popular masses, namely, a philosophy which elucidates the theoretical basis of politics that leads the development of society along the right path.
The Government of the DPRK steadfastly maintains Juche in all realms of the revolution and construction.
Establishing Juche means adopting the attitude of a master towards the revolution and construction of one’s country. It means maintaining an independent and creative standpoint in finding solutions to the problems which arise in the revolution and construction. It implies solving those problems mainly by one’s own efforts and in conformity with the actual conditions of one’s own POLITICS country. The realization of independence in politics, selfsufficiency in the economy and self-reliance in national defence is a principle the Government maintains consistently.
The Korean people value the independence of the country and nation and, under the pressure of imperialists and dominationsts, have thoroughly implemented the principle of independence, self-reliance and self-defence, defending the country’s sovereignty and dignity firmly.
It is an invariable policy of the Government of the Republic, guided by the Juche idea, to treasure the Juche character and national character and maintain and realize them. The Government of the Republic always adheres to the principle of Juche, the principle of national independence, and thus is carrying out the socialist cause of Juche.” (http://www.korea-dpr.com/juche_ideology.html)
All of that really says nothing. It is written in a confusing way and seems to be a lot of fluff. The deeper policies and beliefs of North Korea are not expressed well. There is not enough in those paragraphs to really differentiate Juche from what other nations do. It is obvious it has communist implications though. Even so, the above statements make Juche seem like such a nice, warm, and fuzzy belief system all Taekwondo people worldwide should embrace. Like it is just a great way to get everyone together in a country to solve problems and be creative and happy. Wrong.
The website “North Korean Christians” gives a truthful profile of Juche:
“The idea of Juche, also known “Kimilsungism” after Kim Ilsung, is the religious, political, social and economic ideology of North Korea (“The Juche Idea”).
The Juche Idea was first introduce by Kim Ilsung in 1955 to distance North Korea from the Soviet Union, which at the time was undoing many of the Stalinist policies that Kim Ilsung liked.
Over time, Juche evolved, borrowing from Marxism, Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism and Confucianism whatever Kim Ilsung and Kim Jongil wanted, as well as their own ideas, and in 1972 replaced Marxism-Leninism in the North Korean constitution as the country’s official ideology.
According to Juche, there is no god but Kim Ilsung, the country’s “Eternal President”, which makes North Korea the world’s only country governed by an embalmed dead body. Juche attributed divine powers also to Kim Jongil, the sole author, editor and interpreter of Juche. Whether his divine powers trickle down to Kim Jongun remains to be seen.
Juche espouses political independence and uses as justification the Korean peninsula’s long history of suffering as a vassal state or the battlefield for the region’s stronger countries. In reality, Juche produced an isolated state immune to international norms and laws, where the only rule of law is Kim Ilsung and his family.
Juche also espouses economic independence, but the reality couldn’t be farther from it. The Korean peninsula’s northern half, only 18% of whose mountainous terrain is arable, historically depended on the agriculture of the relatively less mountainous southern half of the peninsula for its food. When the peninsula was split north-south in 1953, North Korea lost access to its bread basket, and Juche’s disdain for international trade destined its people to hunger and starvation.
The North Korean economy has been kept afloat not by Juche but by massive food and fuel aid from the Soviet Union, China, South Korea, Japan, United States and the United Nations, as well as Juche’s sole export crop, opium, which annually earns an estimated $500 million to $1 billion.” (http://northkoreanchristians.com/juche-idea.html)
Juche is an excuse for the iron fisted rule of the Kim dynasty, which has left millions upon millions of North Koreans dying of starvation. The Kim’s live in luxury while their people die. Any defectors are thrown in prison camps and executed. Kim Jung Un has recently executed a lot of people with anti-aircraft guns, including his uncle. North Korea is basically a hellhole of horror and death. If a person dissents or says something negative about the leader of North Korea they and their entire family are thrown into prison labor camps to die of starvation. Many torture methods are used, and often times prison guards and police use ITF Taekwondo to beat up, and even beat to death, political prisoners. This should give one a better understanding of the reality of what Juche means, and what it meant for Choi Hong Hi to give honor to Kim Il Sung and his Juche philosophy.
General Choi’s imagination of Karate moves was out of control…
General Choi’s martial arts experience and training history was said to be in Japanese Karate where he earned the rank of 2nd dan black belt in Shotokan Karate under Master Gichin Funikoshi. This is debatable though as there are claims there is no documented evidence of him actually testing or being certified. Choi often trained alone. The official Kukkiwon stance is that Choi never actually earned a black belt when he tried to take over the KTA and run Taekwondo for himself. That was another issue that angered kwan leaders. Before the KTA he never earned any serious black belt rank which would give him credence as a master of martial arts. This is why I believe that much of the ITF forms are ridiculous and not based on logic. Oh, there are a few which are good and I can honestly admit I once in awhile practice some, but these forms are ones probably developed mostly by Nam Tae Hi, his #1 physical performer who was actually a skilled martial artist. Choi developed the Juche tul in the 1980s which is a very showy form made to impress with flying kicks and other stylish movements. If there is any actual combat application I would like to know it, but it seems it was created just to show off and look flashy. It seems Choi’s imagination was out of control. This is displayed in his imaginative moves for his tul (forms in ITF are called tul, they do not use the term poomsae). For example, this is a serious application for a double block standing on one leg:
Now what are the actual chances of such a block being utilized in a real combat situation? I say slim to none. And more so, what are the chances of 2 guys doing high flying jump kicks at you at the exact same time in a real combat situation? Of course it could happen, but even if it did, wouldn’t it be smart just to duck or move out of the way? I doubt two forearm blocks like that would be strong enough to keep the flying kicks of two attacker’s full body weight coming at you full force while you are standing on one leg. It is not a logical move for defense. It is not plausible to explain the above photo by saying it was just to be fun, or cute, or even a joke. It is an absolutely serious photograph. A grandmaster of a martial art would not take a photo to show off like that unless he thought the moves he was posing in were actually profound. It is absolutely a silly photo.
The greatest thing about Korean Taekwondo, the Kukkiwon style, is that applications to movements are some of the most simple, common sense, and easy to perform and pull off techniques, that can be realistically applied in a self defense situation. Of course the average student who is not advanced enough cannot see the multiple applications for moves, but when one finds out the applications from his instructor the student will see the movements are not ridiculous as in the photo above. At least they shouldn’t be.
Now back to Choi’s communist sympathies….
Choi was the first president of the KTA, then he briefly stepped down to do government duties in Malaysia. Later, in 1965 Choi acted as the 3rd president of the Korean Taekwondo Association after he was elected again. Even so, Choi caused a lot of strife within the Korean martial arts community and annoyed most of the early Korean martial arts leaders with his despotic attitude. He used his status and position as a general in the military to influence and intimidate people and get what he wanted done. Since he was in a position of power he could easily control people. The KTA members did not approve of General Choi’s behavior and did not agree with his desire to control Taekwondo. He was told to step down as KTA president in 1966. He was given the blessing by Lee Chong Woo to start his own ITF organization. This was simply a compromise to hurry the stepping down of Choi to get him the heck out of the KTA so they could progress. It is stated in A Modern History of Taekwondo:
“LEE Chong Woo comments on the issue: ‘CHOI Hong Hi was like an authoritarian dictator so UHM Woon Kyu and I had to kick him out. One morning we went to visit him at his house in Hannamdong (near Yong San) to ask him to resign, but CHOI Hong Hi begged us to allow him to remain as KTA President for six more months. We told him he would have to choose between three things: ‘Money’, ‘Position’ or ‘Honor’. We told him that if he chose Honor and resigned, we would help him make his own International Taekwon-Do Federation, but we wanted him to resign immediately and get out of the Korea Taekwondo Association‘” (p. 25) emphasis mine
Since Choi Hong Hi was literally kicked out of the KTA and lost his control, and most importantly, his respect in the Korean Taekwondo community his ego was bruised and his pride was damaged. Being the egomaniac he was, he wanted to get revenge or snub the Korean Taekwondo Association members by claiming his International Taekwon-Do Federation martial art was the only true Taekwondo in the world. He quickly made huge efforts to spread the ITF worldwide ahead of the KTA. The KTA which later built the Kukkiwon facility, and developed the organizational structure of national Taekwondo, and the World Taekwondo Federation sport organization was slower at spreading Taekwondo to other nations. This made the world see Choi’s ITF first and gave it popularity. It was a power play and a smart move. A little later the KTA sent out many instructors worldwide to promote the Kukkiwon and WTF sport. There were disputes and conflicts here and there all over the world between the ITF and Kukkiwon instructors. It seems that since the Kukkiwon and KTA were linked with the nation of Korea and its government it gave them credibility and strong support. Foreigners training in the KTA/Kukki-style of Taekwondo could feel secure in the fact their Taekwondo was the Korean cultural martial art. Taekwondo was a Korean martial art much like Karate is a Japanese style that has its roots in Japan. Choi had established his ITF headquarters in Toronto, Canada and registered it with Canada shortly after resigning from his presidency in the KTA. The truth is that ITF members can trace their linage to a man, and not a national or cultural martial art (unless they wanted to say they trained in Canadian Taekwondo, but obviously they didn’t want to say that). With the government of Korea accepting the KTA and the development of Kukki-Taekwondo (National Taekwondo) Choi wanted to have it be known that his ITF was the real Korean version and he was left wanting more to be desired to propagate his ITF. He had to figure out a way to give more weight to his Taekwondo style being linked to Korea, besides the fact he was a Korean who created it. Choi for years always wrote Taekwondo in a normal way, but later he changed the spelling of “Taekwondo” to “Taekwon-Do” to differentiate his style from the KTA. He then began to claim this is the only true way to spell Taekwondo that it had to have a hyphen separating “Taekwon” from “Do.” This is why you always see ITF people spelling Taekwondo like “Taekwon-Do.” Many ITF members get upset if you spell it the normal way. The truth is Taekwondo is a Korean word and Koreans use Hangul to write words. In Hangul there is no hyphen or necessary separation of words. Literally translating the actual hangul with a hyphen is grammatically incorrect and makes no sense. So the original spelling of Taekwondo of the KTA is the true way to spell it in English. Unless Choi wanted to claim that Taekwondo was an English word and not a Korean word. How would you translate the hyphen in other languages such as Arabic or Chinese that does not use hyphens either? So the whole hyphen emphasis is illogical. Choi not only wanted to be known as the sole creator of Taekwondo in it’s current ITF form at the time, but also claim that his “Taekwon-Do” of his ITF, was a true, historic, Korean martial art accepted by Korea. It can be said that Choi wanted to take Taekwondo to North Korea so he could claim a “Korean national” connection. To claim his ITF style is from Korean soil. He basically defected to the North.
In 1972 he betrayed Korea by having a soft view of the North Korean regime led by the despot Kim Il Sung (the “living god and father of all Koreans,” and “The Eternal President” according to North Korean mythology) by bringing his ITF Taekwon-Do to North Korea.
*an interesting side note is that the ATA mcdojang organization, which actually was an offshoot of the ITF, was founded by H.U. Lee who claimed he was the Eternal Grandmaster of ATA Taekwondo. It is obvious he got that idea from the Kims. The only difference is he did not have his body embalmed to be viewed in glass at the ATA headquarters for “eternity” after his death like communist dictators did*.
Choi and his remaining loyal students performed demonstrations for Kim Il Sung, and his top instructors taught North Korean soldiers the ITF style. He became friends with Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jung Il and found nothing wrong with what they were doing to North Koreans by their iron fisted rule. If he actually did find something wrong with what they are doing he probably wouldn’t have went there or became friends with such people. Unless, he kept his mouth shut and ignored the atrocities because he realized he benefited a lot out of the relationships for his own agenda. That would tell you a lot about his person, but it is more plausible to assume he did not find anything wrong with the Kims.
Linking up with North Korea and taking them martial arts, his Taekwon-Do style, was the ultimate insult to those in South Korea who he feels slighted them. He not only slighted the Korean Taekwondo Association, Kukkiwon, and the World Taekwondo Federation, he insulted his former nation and government by betraying them. After he made the trip to Korea, and after developing his ITF organization in Canada for several years he decided to tour North Korea and do demos and create relations with North Korea in 1979. Later in 1982 Choi left Canada with his family in early 1982 to live in Pyongyang. North Korea than headed he ITF. Therefore during the 80’s the idea that ITF is North Korean Taekwondo was spread by martial arts students worldwide who wanted to understand the difference between the ITF and what was then known as the “WTF style,” which people called South Korean Taekwondo.
Choi’s son states:
“the relationship became unnecessarily deep. In 1979, Choi Seung-chol of the United Front Department visited us in Canada and promised support for our family and the ITF. He proposed that my father visit the North. Soon after, the Choi Hong-hi Taekwondo Demo Team gave its first performance at Pyongyang Stadium in September 1980.” (http://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/news/article/article.aspx?aid=2894692&ref=mobile)
Ahn (2008) explains, “According to Choi, North Korea established pro-North, anti-South organizations around the world with the taekwondo masters that it has dispatched through the ITF. Such organizations were launched in Germany, Canada, the United States and other countries, he said.”
Choi’s son, Choi Jung Hwa, also claims his father had pro-North Korea policies which he did not agree with. He claims ITF used Taekwondo to send masters around the world who were actually North Korean agents who would be used for assassination attempts on South Korean officials and the president. He even admits that he was also trained to assassinate then South Korean president Chun Doo Hwan
Choi did not really flee South Korea because of a dictator…
Keep in mind that South Korea had a history of dictator rule as well. Syngman Rhee was the first elected president of South Korea and a staunch anti-communist. He was largely responsible for Korean independence against the Japanese and the promotion of Korean nationalism. But he eventually became an authoritarian regime leader and had people executed who were against him and kept power outside the rules of the Korean constitution. He also suppressed many communist activists. General Choi was in the military under this president and seemed to like him. He not only fought in the Korean War under this president against the communist North, but he introduced the first Taekwondo demonstration in Korea for him in 1954. It was during this demonstration that President Rhee was impressed with the idea of Taekwondo and decided that Taekwondo would be a good name for a unified Korean, national martial art. It was during this demo that Nam Tae Hi (Choi’s #1 man) famously broke a large amount of bricks with his bare hands causing President Rhee to express his desire for all of the military in Korea to learn Taekwondo. Of course the martial arts they were performing were basically Karate as Taekwondo was not officially named until the next year, and no special forms were created yet, as they still practiced Japanese Kata. In 1960 Rhee was ousted by a student led protest. Eventually this led to military coup d’états that were very short lived and led to Park Chung Hee being elected president. General Choi actually supported the coup d’état, but was upset Park was then elected president. This is because Choi along with others in a military court voted to sentence Park to death for being a communist leader of a cell in the Korean constabulary in the late 1940’s prior. This is ironic since Choi defected to North Korea later in his life and shows his hypocrisy. The accusations were unfounded and Syngman Rhee commuted his sentence. When Park became president it caused problems for Choi because Park extremely disliked him. I would say it is rightly so after being voted to die by him. Anyone would resent someone for that. Choi was asked to resign from the South Korean military in 1962 and given the assignment of ambassador to Malaysia. This would no doubt have made Choi hate Park even more. This is where Choi developed most of his tul, on Malaysian soil. In 1964 he flew to Vietnam to introduce his tul to the Korean soldiers who were already training in Taekwondo. He wanted to make sure his forms would be spread and accepted by the military. He had help with his #1 man, Nam Tae Hi of course. It is very interesting Choi would be supporting the effort against communism in this way, serving South Korea, but later defecting and becoming a communist sympathizer.
After his first term, Park Chung Hee was reelected again and later became a dictatorship through various means. He angered North Korea a lot and was vehemently against communism. North Korea tried to assassinate him a few times but failed. Interestingly enough he was assassinated in 1979 by a Korean CIA director who wanted power, you know typical stuff that happens with men who desire power and control. The point of mentioning this is that many ITF proponents will express that Choi was exiled out of South Korea by an evil South Korean government run by a dictator. If Choi was such a great guy who wanted freedom from dictators why was he cool with Syngman Rhee? Choi stuck around with South Korea for long enough before leaving in 1972. He tolerated Park’s disdain for him and served as ambassador to Malaysia. He even had Taekwondo taught to Korean troops and the South Vietnamese Army in the Vietnam War, along with U.S. special forces. During this time both KTA and Choi’s ITF were being mixed and taught in Vietnam, there was much crossover. This is the era of Taekwondo in Korea that had much overlap from KTA and ITF since Choi at this time had already stepped down from the KTA. So Choi fully supported the fight against communism, against the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong rebels. What a contrast from fighting in 1 war against North Korea, to support anti-communist struggles in Vietnam, to then turn around and support North Korea and the Juche ideology.
I don’t think the real reason Choi left Korea was because he somehow was forced. He did it on his own free will. ITF proponents will claim he spoke with dissent towards President Park and was forced to leave, but this is not true since Park tolerated him and gave him a position as ambassador to Malaysia. I would like to know exactly what public statements he made in history that would get him kicked out of Korea or executed. Also they will say that South Korea was run by a “brutal dictatorship.” President Park may have done some mean and nasty things that cannot be justified, but they are nowhere as evil or brutal as what was going on in North Korea with Kim Il Sung. Also Park did a lot of great things like boosting the Korean economy and making it progress and become a strong player in Asia (a tiger economy). Believe it or not sometimes dictators do good things and not only bad. And sometimes these dictators are worth supporting over another evil such as what North Korea and China would have done to South Korea if it won the war. If Park’s regime was so brutal you would think General Choi would have been tortured and executed, but he wasn’t. It seems evil dictators were not the real reason Choi left Korea. It seems he left simply because he was mad at the KTA an wanted to start an international movement of Taekwondo led by himself, to be the boss he wanted to be, to be seen as an important Korean figure, and control Taekwondo in the world. His attitude is very much like the dictators ITF proponents say threatened him. It also gives understanding possibly as to why Choi admired evil communist dictators in North Korea. He would probably be just like them if given such power.
Choi willingly promoted his Taekwon-Do to a truly brutal dictatorship in North Korea under Kim Il Sung. So historically ITF positively embraced evil. This is unlike the KTA and Kukkiwon which simply existed in Korea and did not willfully choose to be under dictatorships, it simply just survived and was allowed and promoted. It was after all Korea’s national martial art and sport, so why would a South Korean, nationalist president want to get rid of it? There is no dictator philosophy in Kukki-Taekwondo, but there are traditional Korean philosophical and cultural ideas promoted in it and martial arts philosophy of fighting. This cannot be said for ITF which literally has a communist dictator philosophy promoted in it of Juche. Also, much of the names for ITF forms are silly and named after historic Korean figures and things. It is kind of like if the United States made a martial art and named forms after George Washington or Paul Revere. Could you imagine that? “I will now perform The Midnight Ride Poomsae of Paul Revere! Seejak!! Most martial arts name their patterns after combat concepts, and philosophical ideas that apply to martial arts. ITF seems to have just been a way to be ultra nationalistic. At least in the Kukkiwon Taekwondo poomsae are full of philosophy and still distinctly Korean and display Korean, national pride while still being relatable to foreigners. What foreigner literally cares about a guy named Dan Gun, or Toi Gye? Yes Dan Gun founded Korea in 2333 BC, and Toi Gye was the pen name of the scholar Yi Hwang who was a Neo-Confucianist scholar in the 16th century, but what the hell does that have to do with me learning to fight? I prefer the philosophy of Taegeuk, something that could be applied to anyone in any country and still is distinctly Korean. I do not prefer to embrace Juche and Kim Il Sungism in my Taekwondo.
2 kinds of Taekwondo existed but people did not understand that yet…
Before people understood the various separate styles and political organizational differences of martial arts the ignorant masses assumed Taekwondo was simply Karate. Karate was the buzzword for all martial arts in the West. In the early days of Taekwondo the term Karate was used all over the place to advertise Taekwondo gyms and much of that improper identification is still used today in various martial arts advertisements and signage. Lots of people all over the world trained in Karate in 50’s-80’s. During this era popular culture did not take into account the various styles of Karate, or that some martial art styles were in fact not even Karate, but were Aikido, Jiu Jitsu, or Kempo etc. Karate was also used interchangeably with Kung Fu when the popularity of Hong Kong Kung Fu fighting movies reached its height. Later, when people found out that there was a kind of “Karate” from Korea called Taekwondo, people assumed there was only one kind of Taekwondo in much the same way as people made no difference in their minds about different Karate styles and organizations. People assumed Taekwondo was just Taekwondo and did not understand there was an ITF and WTF which were not affiliated together or even the same styles. This was because both WTF/Kukkiwon and ITF would count all the people who claimed to do Taekwondo around the world regardless of organizational affiliation so that they could claim extremely large numbers of people training in Korea’s national martial art. They would add up both the ITF practitioners and WTF/Kukkiwon practitioners all over the world to claim that all of these people were training in the one style of Taekwondo with no differentiation of organizations. It benefited both sides and gave glory to Korea which was a common goal. For example if 2 million people in one country were training in ITF Taekwon-Do, and only 1 million people in the same country were training in WTF Taekwondo the WTF would state, “Over 3 million people train in the art of Taekwondo” in said country. Likewise, the ITF would claim that “3 million people trained in Taekwon-Do” as well and vice versa. Both ITF and Kukkiwon groups included memberships from both groups together to claim they are all doing the same martial art, or more accurately all of the numbers of people counted were training in Choi’s martial art if it was ITF propaganda, and if it was KTA/WTF/Kukkiwon propaganda they would simply say it was their style that had the numbers. Sometimes ITF may be in one country and WTF not in that country yet, but the WTF would act as if their Taekwondo is in that country by including ITF people in their worldwide numbers.
Even the lesser known groups at the time who branched off from the ITF and WTF to form their own organizations and the various large mcdojang groups advertise and claim numbers of practitioners the same way today. It is not uncommon for groups like the ITF, ATA and other mcdojang chains to claim that during the summer Olympics the Taekwondo event represents their martial art. An example is in Choi’s obituary in The Guardian which states: “…he and his students spread taekwondo across the globe, and saw it become a medal sport in Sydney at the 2000 Olympics” (http://www.theguardian.com/news/2002/aug/09/guardianobituaries.northkorea). Choi had nothing to do with the Olympics and his Taekwon-Do is a completely different style than WTF. They do not even use the same rules in their sport sparring. ITF sport is not in the Olympics. Only WTF sport is. Yet that is an example of propaganda making no differentiation of styles or organizations.
The reality of the population of the world training in Taekwondo was that some were training in ITF style and others in WTF style (just as it is today which now includes various smaller organizations and commercial chain schools). It benefited both sides to make the single martial art of Taekwondo seem like it was trained by billions of people. It was actually split up, but possibly the ITF in the early stages had more members and countries, but with the excitement and possibility of Taekwondo being an official Olympic sport in the 1980’s the majority then became Kukkiwon practitioners. Before the Olympic dreams, in the 1970’s, the ITF and Kukkiwon/WTF tried to unify and accept each other by giving opposite organization leaders honorary positions in each organization to create peace, but of course it did not work. It was very short lived. Even so, this also had an influence on the census of Taekwondo practitioners worldwide to keep being counting as one Taekwondo population instead of separate ITF and Kukkiwon populations. Koreans really wanted to take pride in that Taekwondo was “the worlds most popular martial art.”
There was also overlapping of instructors who liked both groups at the same time, or had training history in each group. I personally had a 9th dan black belt instructor who had training history in both ITF and Kukkiwon and was ranked in both. He was officially ranked as 9th dan in the Kukkiwon and ended up supporting the WTF. Over time such instructors either took full sides to either ITF or Kukkiwon. This especially became true when people heard about Choi’s trip to North Korea, and even more when he moved there. Many Koreans chose to distance themselves from him because of his support for North Korea. The majority of Korean master instructors began to support the Kukkiwon and join in the Olympic pursuit.
It was not long that pretty much everyone understood there were 2 kinds of Taekwondo, one was Choi’s ITF, and the other was Korea’s Kukkiwon. People were led to believe that ITF was from North Korea even though it came from Canada. Since Choi made claims that his ITF was the true Korean Taekwondo and he claimed “corrupt politicians” and “dictators” in South Korea cheated him, the North Korean connection of ITF, according to Choi, would then establish North Korea as the true nation of Taekwondo, not the South. This only promoted North Korean propaganda.
The funny thing is, not one ITF dojang that I know of has the guts to fly a North Korean flag inside, and always flies a South Korean flag at the head of the gym. This is ironic since South Korea does not acknowledge ITF as an official Korean martial art and ITF rank is not accepted by the Korean government. The only way you could truthfully declare Taekwondo as North Korean is if you believe the ITF propaganda, that the ITF is the true Taekwondo style, and Choi created Taekwondo himself. You would have to ignore the fact Choi created the ITF in Canada, outside of Korea. Before this he had developed his ITF forms (the tul) in Malaysia when he served as Korean ambassador there. So he developed the techniques in Malaysia and established ITF in Canada. Not Korea. Since you would be following a man, Choi, you could say he was born in North Korea and only went back to his homeland in Myongchon County, North Hamgyong province, North Korea, and this is the rightful place of Taekwondo, Choi’s birthplace. Except for the fact that when Choi was born in 1918 this area of Korea was simply part of the regular country of Korea. It was called “Meigawa-gun, Kankyo-hokudo Chosen” (Japanese words) as North Korea did not exist yet. Even more, this area was ruled by the Japanese Empire and considered part of their nation. Is Taekwondo Korean, or is it Japanese? You would have to ignore these facts to label North Korea as the true nation of Taekwondo.
Military Taekwondo, Traditional Taekwondo, Korean Taekwondo, North Korean Taekwondo, Traditional Korean Taekwondo, using various titles to make their Taekwondo sound better than yours…
When I started training in Taekwondo in the 1990’s people would explain that the difference between ITF and “WTF style” was that ITF was North Korean and “WTF style” was South Korean. Also, since Choi developed the Oh Do Kwan (the military kwan of South Korea), people would say that they trained in “military” Taekwondo and it is somehow more tough and hard. Groups claiming military Taekwondo were of course the ITF, but also the ATA (at least in the 80’s and 90’s). This made no sense, since South Korea used, and still uses, Kukkiwon Taekwondo in their military. This would also make “WTF style” (the Kukkiwon) military Taekwondo. But yes, North Korea teaches its military ITF Taekwon-Do. Another propagation was that ITF was “traditional” Taekwondo. That ITF was the traditional martial art of Korea, the first Teakwondo. This was before the MMA and Reality Based Self Defense caused a rift between what are termed “modern” martial arts and the older “traditional” martial arts such as seen from Asia. The term “traditional martial arts” was not a buzzword back in the 70’s to early 90’s and did not have the same meaning. The term “traditional” was often used by martial arts groups implying their organization or way of teaching a martial art is the traditional way or style as opposed to a newer version. As in the original way of training and the original style. So often times you would hear, ITF people claiming they do “Korean Taekwondo,” or “Military Taekwondo,” or “Traditional Taekwondo.”
Truthfully the Kukki-Taekwondo style is the style the military in Korea trains in. That would make it military Taekwondo. Yet civilians do not train in he same methods exactly as military, so no average citizen in any country can claim they are training in a military martial art unless they are a soldier in South Korea logically. Kukki-Taekwondo is also the traditional martial art of Korea, that would make it traditional Taekwondo. It is also the true Korean (as opposed to North Korean) style of Taekwondo. That makes WTF/Kukkiwon true Korean Taekwondo.
Choi gave legitimacy to North Korea…
With Choi claiming his Taekwon-Do was the true Korean Taekwondo, (as opposed to the south Korean Kukki/WTF not being Korean Taekwondo) he was giving North Korea legitimacy as the true Korea. The ITF has spread North Korean acceptance and sympathy through Choi’s teachings. This is immoral. With all of the human rights violations and suffering North Korea has dealt on its own people with its despotic dynasty supporting North Korea or trying to be diplomatic with them is a shameful thing. Choi’s spread of Juche love in his ITF also brings unnecessary and wrong criticism of South Korea and its policies as well as the United States. It gives North Korea the benefit of the doubt and tolerance. This can be seen in all of the “love fests” that are the diplomatic meetings and demonstrations in which a group of Americans (most often Taekwondo Times Magazine) petition for the North Korean Taekwon-Do Demonstration Team to come to their tournaments. I have also found out a local master instructor who is actually ranked in the Kukkiwon and runs a very large mcdojang in a city I used to live in invited the North Korea demo team as well. Of course large ITF tournaments invite them as well as if they are a special entity. The North Korean Demonstration Team is treated much like how the Korean Tigers or the Kukkiwon Demo Team is treated in the Kukki/WTF circles.
I believe there is absolutely no reason to support or try to be nice with North Korea because…they are evil! Acknowledging them gives them legitimacy and that is wrong. When I say “they” I don’t mean all of the peasents and starving people dying and those tortured to death in prison camps, I mean the North Korean elite and the leaders and brutal people in positions of power who have caused the deaths of untold millions and continue to threaten the peace and safety of South Korea and the entire world with threats of nuclear destruction. Also, the North Koreans are brainwashed to believe the Kims are gods. Asking for their demo team to perform at your event says that such ideology and brainwashing is acceptable.
Choi had tons of respect for both Kim Il Sung and Kim Jung Il…
Choi Hong Hi had a lot of respect for Kim Il Sung. So much respect that he decided it was absolutely necessary to create a black belt form with the unique Communist philosophy and ideology of “Kim Il Sungism.” He called the tul “Juche” and established it in 1986 in the official ITF curriculum.
Here is what the high ranking black belt form called Juche looks like. It is performed by a “super master world champion sine-wave lord”:
The Juche pose is the ready stance at the start and end of the form.
A side note…
Now on a side note, you know why I mentioned above how flashy this form was. Ridiculous flying scissor kicks, full leg-spin kick-extension, and balancing twirls etc…(can the average martial art student even perform these feats? Does being a black belt only qualify super athletic people without any physical disabilities?) A great thing about the Kukkiwon’s WTF approved poomsae creations are that they are techniques that the average person can do, or will be able to do with practice and they take in account the fact students may have disabilities or physical limitations. The moves are advanced enough to show serious skill, yet are not over the top and remain a basic concept for self defense at the black belt level and for the average person who obtains high dan rank. In WTF/Kukki-Taekwondo flashy kicks and twirls are reserved outside of poomsae and displayed by the physically gifted black belts, and it does not nullify the abilities of lesser gifted black belts. It is not a requirement to do a flying scissor kick or ballet twirls for rank, (but if you can do them then great, it is extra credit and desirable), but it seems that the ITF tries to make it a qualification for dan ranks by making such forms mandatory to learn for rank, yet the average ITF student I have seen cannot do these movements very well at all (now I know where the ATA got their ideas for their ridiculous looking forms, because the founders of the ATA were former ITF masters).
Another Side note, it is interesting that the form Toi Gye also contains the Juche stance/pose in the middle of the form, with the feet together close instead of shoulder width, but it is essentially the same thing and hands are placed in the same fashion. Apparently Choi was giving credence to Kim Il Sung before he ever created the Juche tul. Here is a video of the form look for the Juche pose at :25:
The communist Juche ideology in ITF…
Now if you look closely at the ready stance (chunbi stance) you will notice the pose has the fists on the waist and elbows stuck out. This stance is performed at the start and ending of the form. Here is a photo of General Choi posing in the Juche stance:
What is the reason for this stance? Is there a combat application? Absolutely not! It is simply thrown in there to honor Kim Il Sung, who is seen in many paintings, statues and other depictions in this position. Apparently, Kim Il Sung stood this way often and showed his strict authority and dominance as the leader of North Korea. Below is a painting of Kim Il Sung with his son (the real Dr. Evil) Kim Il Jung:
It is the Juche stance! There are also 1 arm variations of this stance seen in large statues:
Kim Jung Il also is depicted like his father in a Juche stance:
So you get the point. Choi taught this way of standing at ready position for the Juche tul. It is exactly how Kim Il Sung and then his son Kim Jung Il stood often. They are depicted in propaganda and art to display power, dominance, confidence, and control. Choi, calling his tul Juche and making the ready stance before you start with the hands placed in this way, is a direct reference to Kim Il Sung. It was put in the form so that he will be honored by all ITF black belts. Choi wanted to honor the dictator, fully supporting his Juche policies that have left North Koreans starving and dying for more than half a century. With Choi Hong Hi’s influence and the spreading of ITF Taekwon-Do all over the world he has spread communist sympathies and interests. The references of this evil in the ITF are absolutely clear and cannot be denied.
Now we have dorky ITF ranked white guys in America who think they are cool posing in the communist dictator’s stance in front of South Korean and United States flags:
Any freedom loving patriots of America, Korea, or other democracies should not be practicing and promoting a martial art style that supports communist dictators. A lot of ITF practitioners ignore the truth, or are too prideful to drop the ITF and join the Kukkiwon. A lot of it has to do with not being a master, or keeping their rank if they leave to the Kukkiwon. But if someone wants to participate in the true Korean martial art, wants to be enriched by true Korean culture, and wants to stop doing crazy flashy tul and more reasonable poomsae and be better at self defense, and stop supporting evil North Korean dictators and the millions of dead caused by them, they should join the Kukkiwon. The absolute least thing they should do beyond that is to quit practicing Juche, which at least 1 or 2 ITF groups (there are 3 separate ITF groups due to ego-maniacal, in-fighting between leaders after Choi’s death) have either quit teaching Juche, or simply renamed it. But for the one who renamed it, hopefully they also stopped the “Juche pose” and replaced it with a standard chunbi stance or something else.
The majority of martial arts enthusiasts who train simply want to work on technique, stay in shape, and learn to fight better. The problem with the ITF is they keep politicking and have become a cult of personality for Choi Hong Hi. He is kind of like the original dictator of ITF. Choi seemed to be more concerned with “his style” being represented the way he wanted it, to make sure his forms were performed his way, and to make sure everyone acknowledged he is the god of Taekwondo. The Oh Do Kwan which he founded in the South Korean military literally means “School of My Way” as in Choi’s way. This says a lot! He literally did express that his name was “Taekwon-Do” which was given to him by God. So God gave him the name Taekwon-Do and we have to recognize it. He was always concerned with people following him and doing what he says. At the end of his life he was quoted on the ITF website stating that he is the man with the most followers in the entire world. ITF is all about politics and being part of an organization. It is not so much as training to be a martial arts expert and knowing how to fight. The most important thing to most in the ITF is if you believe in Choi, not so much as being good fighters or self defense experts. If they were concerned about combat techniques they wouldn’t be as closed minded as they are and would keep progressing in various techniques and concepts. It seems once Choi died that is as far as ITF will go. Unfortunately as Choi got older he not only fully embraced North Korean communism, but added ridiculous theories such as “sine-wave” in his style. It made ITF Taekwon-Do worse. With his death basically everyone in ITF basically will not change much. Stances in forms won’t change, self defense ideas won’t change much either. Heck their uniforms really haven’t changed either! It’s like they are stuck in the late 70’s. Choi never seemed to allow individual freedoms within ITF. In the WTF/Kukkiwon of course uniforms most of the time are “WTF approved” yet there are so many styles and brands you can buy. The ITF basically has isolationist policies within martial arts much like North Korea. It is no wonder. The Kukkiwon allows for individual freedom, dojang liberty and constantly progresses and develops technique for better training as knowledge and science increases. Taekwondo is about fighting, to train as a martial artist and develop yourself. ITF is always about Choi and whatever of the 3 ITF groups you belong to want to promote. ITF exists for itself and Choi and not for martial arts as a whole or the individual. This is wrong. True Korean Taekwondo as promoted by the Kukkiwon is about self defense and the individual to develop as a martial artist in their own being. This is the way it should be and this is why Taekwondoin should affiliate with the Kukkiwon and not ITF.
It is 100% clear that Choi and the ITF embraced the axis of evil that is North Korea. It cannot be denied that ITF Taekwondo supports North Korea. ITF is offensive in its sympathetic view of North Korea and tolerance of Juche communism. Many American and South Korean soldiers died defending Korea and trying to suppress communism in Asia in one of the most pointless conflicts Kim Il Sung started which was the Korean war. Only a maniacal and evil person would cause such a war only to not gain anything from it but death. It was much like the result of Saddam Hussein’s war with Iran where nothing was gained but death. No land was gained or any resources in the Korean war. At least America made sure the original land was regained or else the entire peninsula would be ruled by the Kims today. South Korea is a nation of progress and freedom and this should be expressed in Taekwondo.