|World Taekwondo Federation President Choue Chung-won speaks during an interview at the federation’s headquarters in Seoul, Monday. / Courtesy of WTF|
By Baek Byung-yeul
After three months, the eyes of all taekwondo athletes in the world will be on the World Taekwondo Championships, which will take place in Korea’s alpine town of Muju, North Jeolla Province, from June 24 to 30.
To commemorate the 100-day countdown to the World Taekwondo Federation’s (WTF) flagship event, a celebration event will take place Sunday at Gwanghwamun Square in downtown Seoul. Featuring local taekwondo stars Lee Dae-hoon and Oh Hye-ri, participants can break boards and enjoy variety kinds of taekwondo performances.
Introducing the international taekwondo event, WTF President Choue Chung-won said the Muju championships will be the largest ever of its kind.
“We have a global membership of 208 countries and the 23rd taekwondo championships will be the largest ever, featuring more than 170 countries,” Choue told The Korea Times at the WTF’s headquarters in downtown Seoul, Monday.
Adding that the 22nd event invited 900 taekwondo athletes from 139 countries, the president said more than 1,000 athletes are expected to compete in June.
Emphasizing that Muju has Taekwondowon, the world’s largest facility devoted to taekwondo, the president said Muju will emerge as the Mecca of taekwondo through this year’s world championships.
“Muju established Taekwondowon in 2014 and the provincial government was avid for hosting the world championships. With the Muju event as a chance, we would like to make the alpine town as the spiritual hometown of taekwondo,” Choue said.
Ever since the sport became an official medal event at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the WTF has made continuous efforts to make the combat sport more fun and fair for all competitors. And as a part of such efforts, the governing body introduced a wireless electronic scoring system to reduce disputes on scoring decisions at the 2012 London Olympics.
Choue said the WTF achieved its vision of making taekwondo fair and transparent at last year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics as well.
“In Rio, we had no issues with the electronic equipment. Taekwondo also became the first Olympic sport to achieve gender equality as the 30 referees were comprised of 15 males and 15 females. And we will not stop the efforts as there will be some changes in the Muju competition,” Choue said, referring to changes in scoring.
To make the combat sport more exciting to watch, an athlete can earn two points instead of one for a valid kick attack on the trunk protector on the torso.
Also, athletes will receive a one-point penalty when they lift the leg to block, kick the opponent’s leg to impede an attack or lift a leg or kicks in the air for more than three seconds to impede the opponent’s potential attack.
Predicting which countries will display its dominance in the Muju event, Choue said taekwondo fans should pay attention to athletes from the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
“Iran took the men’s overall title at the 2015 championships in Chelyabinsk, Russia, while Korea won the women’s overall. They will be strong medal contenders in Muju. Plus, athletes from Africa and Europe are also expected to show their edge,” Choue said.
Choue said the Muju world championships has another reason to be highlighted as it features special guests during the event — two young taekwondo athletes from Nepal and two from a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan.
“With many people around the world enjoying taekwondo, we have been trying to find ways to contribute to society. And the WTF and its associated charity initiative Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation (THF) have been running taekwondo academies in the Azraq Camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan and for the people displaced by the earthquake in Nepal.
“We have operated the academies in a bid to guide young students to the right path to become good citizens. I believe having those young students in Muju will spread our message of peace and harmony across the world.”