By Paul Osborne in the Main Media Centre in Nanjing 

The WTF and ITF have signed a histroic agreement that could see ITF registered competitors compete at the Olympic Games ©WTFNorth Korea athletes are set to be able to compete in taekwondo at the Olympics for the first time after the sport's two rival international organisations signed an historic agreement here.  

The South Korean-based World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) is currently the only governing body recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

That excludes athletes from the North Korea-led International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) competing in the Games. 

But a groundbreaking new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the WTF and ITF could end their exile, however, with athletes registered to either of the two organisations able to compete in one another's competition, including the Olympics.

It means competitors currently registered with the ITF could compete at the Olympic Games if they compete in WTF-sanctioned events under their rules and regulations.

The MoU was signed here between WTF and ITF Presidents Chungwon Choue and Ung Chang during the second edition of the Summer Youth Olympic Games.

The signing ceremony between the two took place in the presence of IOC President Thomas Bach. 

Chang is the IOC member representing North Korea.

"We are delighted to have signed this agreement with the ITF," said Choue.

"We are always looking at ways to develop and evolve taekwondo for the benefit of athletes and fans and opening up our relationship with the ITF is a key way of doing this.

"It is appropriate that this agreement has been signed here in Nanjing as the emphasis of the Youth Olympic Games is not just on sporting competition, but also on education and cultural understanding and that is part of what we are trying to achieve through this agreement.

"With this agreement, the WTF will do its upmost to ensure that every taekwondo athlete has the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games."

North Korean athletes practicing taekwondo affiliate themselves with the ITF-sanctioned rules and regulations and have never competed at the Olympics ©Getty ImagesNorth Korean athletes practicing taekwondo affiliate themselves with the ITF-sanctioned rules and regulations and have never competed at the Olympics ©Getty Images

The origins of the ITF us widely acknowledged to have been founded in 1966 by general Choi Hong Hi in Seoul.

Following his exile from South Korea by the Park Chung-hee administration, Choi fled to Canada and established the ITF headquarters in Toronto, moving it to Vienna in 1985.

Following Choi's death in 2002 Chang was elected as the new President of the ITF, following backing from the North Korean administration in Pyongyang.

Divisions over the years, namely with Choi's son Choi Jung Hwa and Master Trần Triệu Quân, has led to rifts within the ITF and caused three separate organisations to be established.

The ITF, which has close links with North Korea, due partly to Choi's exile from South Korea, but also through Chang, has been in discussions with the WTF for a number of years.

"It is great that the two organisations finally reached an agreement for cooperation after many years of discussions and efforts," said Chang.

"This is only the beginning of our cooperation and there will be more to achieve together."

Bach hailed the agreement a "historic step for taekwondo".

He added: "It is a kind of family reunion.

"With common roots and a common history, the two federations belong to the same family and it is great to see such an accord.

"It is in the best interests of the young athletes and lays a firm foundation for cooperation for the future."

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