Introducing Taekwon-Do Abroad for the First Time

Wani as imagined in 19th-century Japanese drawing

It was in the middle of March 1959 that Taekwon-Do was presented in a magnificent performance in Vietnam and Taiwan. It was the first demonstration showing our rich heritage of the Korean peoples five thousand year long history.  Some might think I am forgetting that Wani (王仁, 和邇吉師) of Baekje Dynasty (백제; 百濟) tutored the Japanese Royal Family (405 A.D.) Yes, Wani brought to ten books  of the Analects of Confucius with him and presented to the Emperor Ojin (応神天皇), and as a famous scholar he taught the son of the emperor.  But what he taught reflected nothing of our unique culture. What we did however, was to show our authentic skills and language with actual movements which ere then crystallized spirit and wisdom of  Korean people.

Choi, Duk-shin

Ngo Dinh Diem First President of Republic of Vietnam

Chiang Kai-shek 蔣中正 President of the Republic of China

In 1958, when President Ngo Dinh Diem of Vietnam was on a visit to President Rhee, Syng-ma, they visited the 29th Infantry Division(ROKA) and saw a Taekwon-Do demonstrations. He was deeply touched, saying “This is why the Korean Army is so strong.”  Later I heard from Choi, Duk-shin, who was next to him that day as the diplomatic minister posted to Vietnam stated he could “invite the demonstration team to Vietnam”  Yet it was not easy to make the government offer an official invitation to an unknown martial art in the international world. As Confucius mentioned, it is a shame to say what cannot be done; humble and sincere about what he said, Choi, Duk-shin, had contacted me after President Ngo Dinh Diem, had mentioned it. Taking advantage of hat chance, Choi, Duk-shin persuaded the government of Taiwan under Chiang Kai-shek, which was proud of being the origin of the Oriental marital arts, to issue an invitation to our demonstration team.

Son, Duk-sung 2nd Head of the Chung Do Kwan

As soon as the size of the demonstration team and the date of the invitation were set, I immediately went to the headquarters of the Air Force (Gyerong) to arrange the air transportation and select the team members. Yet, the vice speaker of the National Assembly Lee, Jae-hahk, put pressure on me to include Son, Duk-sung in the team. But I firmly refused it, so the Ministry of Defense was in trouble for a while.  As for me, one who lives to actuate the maxim, Oppress the strong, help the weak,” I stubbornly insisted that if the Ministry of Defense were to ignore the rule of “soldiers only” to let Son, Duk-sung in, I would not go. So though he was the Vice Speaker of the National Assembly, Lee had to withdraw his request.

Nam, Tae-hi leads the Taekwon-Do demo team in Vietnam, March 17, 1959.

Though there were still other requests or complaints from the government or in the army, I did not pay much attention and selected the bast as I saw fit, and I trained 21 of them in the auditorium of the Army Headquarters for about two weeks. Here is the lift of those who where selected  as team members: Head of team: Choi, Hong-hi; Accountant: Kim, Kyong-eul; Conductor:Captain Nam, Tae-hi; Public Liaison: Kim, Hong-gul with the team members being,  1st Lt. Goh, Keum-sik; 1st Lt. Baik, Joon-ki; Woo, Jong-rim; Kwak, Keum-sik; Sgt. Han, Cha-gyo; Kim, Bok-nam; Kim, Guen-taek; Cha, Soo-yong; Yoon, Jong-geul; Kim, Man-ho; Sgt. Kim, Bok-man; Lee, Eung-sung; Lee, Hwa-seuk; Kim, Jae-ryong and three others.

Choi, Duk-shin informed me one day that I would be well advised to have my personal calligraphy exhibition during this trip.  So, I hurriedly  prepared 150 pieces of my calligraphy and waited for our departure day.

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