MUJU — Two international organizations for the Korean martial art of taekwondo have agreed to hold a joint performance during next year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea, the sport’s top official said Friday.
Choue Chung-won, president of the World Taekwondo Federation, said his organization and the North Korea-led International Taekwondo Federation have reached “a verbal agreement” to perform together during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
The WTF, headquartered in Seoul, is the official international federation for taekwondo, as recognized by the International Olympic Committee. The ITF, led by North Korean Ri Yong-son, is based in Vienna. The two organize competitions under different sets of rules.
The two organizations have taken cooperative steps in recent years. In 2014, they signed a landmark agreement called “Protocol of Accord,” detailing areas of cooperation. As per the agreement, the ITF sent a demonstration team to South Korea’s Muju for the WTF World Taekwondo Championships, which will conclude Friday. The ITF team performed at the opening ceremony last Saturday, and will take the stage again in Friday’s closing ceremony.
The WTF will make a reciprocal visit to Pyongyang in September when the ITF holds its own world championship.
“We agreed that there’s a certain legal due process to discuss this matter with the IOC and also PyeongChang’s organizing committee,” Choue said at a press conference at T1 Arena in Muju, 240 kilometers south of Seoul. Choue was accompanied by IOC President Thomas Bach.
“It’s another big step forward in our cooperation,” Choue added. “We have a verbal agreement, and the signing will come in Pyongyang in September, while we’re there.”
Choue stressed that the cooperation will be between the two international organizations, not the governments of the two Koreas, which are technically at war with each other because the Korean War concluded in 1953 in an armistice, not a peace treaty.
Still, Choue said he hopes the taekwondo bodies’ cooperation opens the door for further dialogue on the peninsula.
“I believe we’ll be able to engage in cooperation relatively free of the political climate,” he said. “And if taekwondo can help provide a breakthrough in inter-Korean dialogue, we’ll be very pleased.”
Choue said the WTF is also holding the doors open for ITF athletes to participate in WTF events, as long as they follow the WTF’s rules.
“Our motto is, ‘One Taekwondo, One World,'” he added. “We’ll embrace everyone who has ever practiced taekwondo.” (Yonhap)