Daniel Etchells

The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) is at it again on the sports humanitarian intervention front.

Following the launch of the Taekwondo Peace Corps in 2008, the International Federation is on the brink of adding another body to its growing portfolio; the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation (THF). 

The THF is designed to help the WTF discharge its humanitarian responsibilities and assist the global community as it struggles with one of the biggest problems today; the refugee crisis.

Due to be established by the end of the year in Lausanne, the THF will sponsor teams of taekwondo instructors to teach the sport in refugee camps worldwide.

As reported by insidethegames on Friday (September 18), a story which can be found by clicking here, a pilot programme is currently being planned to operate in Jordanian refugee camps.

WTF President Chungwon Choue is due to visit United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York tomorrow to formally announce the formation of the THF, which he is discussing today in a private meeting with UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.

It will coincide with the UN’s International Day of Peace, an event first proposed in 1981 by Choue’s late father Young Seek Choue, who at that time headed the International Association of University Presidents General Assembly.

The WTF demonstration team will also perform at UN headquarters marking the first leg of a high-profile North American tour, which will see it go on to visit the World Bank in Washington D.C. and the United States Military Academy back in the Big Apple.

WTF President Chungwon Choue is showing the way once more with the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation
WTF President Chungwon Choue is showing the way once more with the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation ©WTF

“I’m happy that taekwondo is different to other Olympic sports in that it can perform demonstrations on different occasions,” Choue told insidethegames.

“Taekwondo is the only sport which has a [designated] demonstration team so I’m very happy to be spreading an Olympic sport and Olympism through our demonstration team.”

Plans for the THF are to be finalised at the WTF Grand Prix Series 3 in Manchester, scheduled to take place from October 16 to 18, after which Choue intends to visit refugee camps in Jordan for himself.

Action in the north-west of England comes hot on the heels of that here, where Grand Prix Series 2 was preceded by the WTF World Para-Taekwondo Championships.

While competition has been fiercely entertaining inside what is a spectacularly colourful venue, named after the London 1948 Olympic gold medal-winning men’s freestyle wrestler, the most disappointing aspect is that there have been so many empty seats.

My first and most recent experience of covering a Grand Prix Series event came at last year’s final in the Mexican state of Querétaro, and although the venue’s compact, temporary steel stands by no means looked pleasing on the eye, they made for a much better atmosphere than we have witnessed here.

With a capacity of 7,500, the Yasur Dogu Sport Arena has simply proved too big for the demand for taekwondo in this part of the world.

It remains to be seen whether Manchester’s Regional Arena, the 6,500 capacity multi-purpose stadium which will play host to Grand Prix Series 3, will prove more fruitful.  

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"Please help us to help them" is the plea from the World Taekwondo Federation ©WTF

Smaller venues may not have the same wow factor, but they’re certainly better in terms of reflecting the tight-knit taekwondo spirit, which like in Querétaro, has been one of the most striking aspects of this six-day trip.

Regardless of stature or status, all the way up to President Choue, egos are non-existent in the WTF as far as I have seen.

All working together for the good of taekwondo, it's a pleasure to work among its members whose passion for the sport is unwavered.

In this sense, it’s somewhat unsurprising that taekwondo is continuing to place itself at the forefront of sports humanitarian intervention.

Like any sport, taekwondo can ill-afford to stand still.

Unlike some sports, taekwondo is recognising that fact.

The WTF Grand Prix Series 2 has failed to attract the crowds organisers would have hoped
The WTF Grand Prix Series 2 has failed to attract the crowds organisers would have hoped ©WTF

From the success of May’s World Taekwondo Championships in Chelyabinsk to January’s announcement that Para-taekwondo had earned its place on the Tokyo 2020 sports programme, 2015 has been another hugely productive year for the sport in what is an ever-more competitive landscape.

Following his three-day trip to New York, President Choue will return to his homeland to celebrate Chuseok, one of South Korea’s most cherished national holidays.

The Harvest Moon Festival, as it is also known, will run from Saturday (September 26) to Tuesday (September 29); extended from the usual three days to four due to Chuseok itself falling on a Sunday (September 27).

Plenty of time, no doubt, for Choue to conjure up his next masterplan amid all the festivities…