The National Sport of South Korea is Taekwondo.
Taekwondo in South Korea is a revered martial art, embodying discipline, strength, and skill.
To learn more about sports culture in South Korea, read our article about the most popular sports in South Korea.
Table of Contents
#1 History of Taekwondo
- 50 BC: Ancient paintings in Korean tombs depict scenes of practicing Taekwondo, showcasing its long historical roots in the Korean Peninsula.
- 1940s: Modern Taekwondo began taking form, as various martial art schools and styles were combined by South Korean martial artists.
- 1955: The name “Taekwondo” was officially established, derived from the Korean words ‘tae’ (foot), ‘kwon’ (fist), and ‘do’ (way).
- 1961: The formation of the Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA) to promote and organize the sport nationwide.
- 1973: First World Taekwondo Championships held in Seoul, South Korea, the same year the World Taekwondo Federation (now World Taekwondo) was founded.
- 1988: Taekwondo makes its Olympic debut as a demonstration sport at the Seoul Summer Olympics.
- 2000: Taekwondo officially becomes a full-medal Olympic sport at the Sydney Summer Olympics.
#2 Culture and Traditions
Taekwondo is a crucial component of South Korea’s cultural identity, promoting physical fitness, self-defense, and mental discipline. Rooted in the country’s history and tradition, it reflects the nation’s warrior spirit and has become a source of national pride.
Various ceremonies, events, and competitions are associated with Taekwondo, such as the annual Korean National Taekwondo Championships, the Taekwondo Hanmadang festival celebrating both traditional and modern forms, and the national spectacle of “Kukkiwon Demonstration Team” performances. Moreover, competitions attract participants from around the world, fostering international cultural exchange.
In South Korea, Taekwondo is a crucial aspect of compulsory military service, with dedicated training facilities for soldiers to enhance their combat skills. It is also readily available as an extra-curricular activity in schools, spreading its values and philosophies amongst younger generations.
#3 How it Works: Rules, Gameplay and Equipment
📕 Rules & Gameplay
- Scoring: Points are awarded based on successful strikes to the opponent’s body or head, with more points awarded for advanced techniques such as spinning kicks.
- Matches: Consist of three non-stop rounds, each lasting two minutes with a one-minute break in between.
- Weight classes: Competitions are divided into various weight classes, ensuring fair competition between athletes of different sizes.
- Referee: A central referee oversees the match, ensuring the athletes follow the rules and maintain discipline.
- Winning: The athlete with the most points at the end of three rounds wins; alternatively, a knockout or the referee’s decision can determine the winner.
⚙️ Equipment & Gear
- Dobok: The traditional uniform worn by Taekwondo practitioners, consisting of a jacket, pants, and a belt signaling the athlete’s rank.
- Hogu: A padded chest protector for athletes to absorb the impact of kicks and punches during a match.
- Helmet: Headgear designed to protect the skull, face, and ears from injury during matches.
- Shin and forearm guards: Protective padding for athletes’ shins and forearms against impacts from kicks and other strikes.
- Mouthguard: Custom-fitted dental protector to minimize the risk of injuries to teeth and gums.
#4 Modern Development of Taekwondo
In contemporary times, Taekwondo has evolved to adapt to modern training methods, fitness trends, and innovative strategies. This martial art no longer focuses solely on self-defense, but also emphasizes physical conditioning, mental development, sports performance, and artistic expression.
Technological advancements have significantly influenced the sport. Electronic scoring systems, instant video replays, and protective gear advancements contribute to increased accuracy and fairness in competitions. Digital platforms also contribute to the expansion of Taekwondo globally, providing resources for training and showcasing outstanding performances.
Over recent decades, there has been a notable rise in the popularity of Taekwondo, particularly among children and younger generations. This has led to an expansion of Taekwondo schools, international student exchange programs, and various initiatives aimed at spreading the art and promoting a global sense of unity and understanding through the martial art.
#5 Taekwondo and the Olympics
Taekwondo’s Olympic journey began when it was introduced as a demonstration sport at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics, with South Korea dominating the medal tally. In 2000, Taekwondo made its official debut as a full-medal event at the Sydney Summer Olympics, further solidifying its international presence. South Korean athletes have consistently exhibited exceptional performances, earning numerous gold medals over the years.
The Olympic Games have significantly contributed to Taekwondo’s global recognition and the expansion of the sport in various countries. The Olympics provide a platform for athletes from diverse nationalities to showcase their skills and attract countless spectators and enthusiasts to the martial art. Consequently, this international exposure has spurred widespread interest in Taekwondo worldwide.
#6 Famous Athletes and Achievements
- Choi Hong-hi: Credited as one of the founders of modern Taekwondo, he played a pivotal role in its development, promotion, and introduction to the Olympics. He also established the International Taekwon-Do Federation in 1966.
- Kim Soo-hyun: A two-time Olympic gold medalist, Kim Soo-hyun became an iconic figure in South Korea after winning her first gold in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and successfully defending her title in the 2004 Athens Olympics.
- Hwang Kyung-seon: Hwang made history by winning gold medals in both the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics. She remains one of South Korea’s most celebrated Taekwondo athletes.
- Lee Dae-hoon: Ranked as the world’s top Taekwondo fighter, Lee holds multiple World Championship titles and an Olympic silver medal from the 2016 Rio Olympics. He is widely regarded as a key figure in modern Taekwondo.
#7 Where to watch Taekwondo
- KBS, SBS, MBC: These South Korean television networks often provide coverage of national and international Taekwondo events.
- YouTube World Taekwondo Channel: Official channel providing live broadcasts, highlights, and event recaps for international competitions like the World Taekwondo Championships.
- Kukkiwon: Located in Seoul, Kukkiwon is the World Taekwondo Headquarters, offering various demonstrations, competitions, and training events in its state-of-the-art facilities.
- Live in South Korea: Attend local competitions or events at iconic venues such as Taekwondowon in Muju, which houses a 4,000-seat arena dedicated to Taekwondo events.