The World Taekwondo Headquarters, better known among Koreans as Kukkiwon, will open its first ever branch outside of South Korea in Los Angeles. The L.A. branch is a part of the preparation to further establish the cultural brand of Korea’s traditional sport.
The plan to open Kukkiwon America Inc. was approved by the headquarters last month. The organization is currently weighing in on the exact location of the soon-to-be launching office as L.A. Koreatown remains as one of the likeliest destinations.
“The branch will contribute to reviving taekwondo in the U.S. by offering instructor training programs and seminars,” said Jin-sub Kim, a Kukkiwon director. “L.A. will be the base location for us to popularize Korean sports through taekwondo. We’re also going to play the role of a mediator to better serve the taekwondo officials in the U.S.”
A branch outside of the home country for taekwondo’s governing body has been a longstanding necessity. There are currently 9.73 million registered taekwondo participants around the world. Among all countries, the U.S. is only second to Korea with 307,113 registered participants.
Additionally, there are up to 40,000 taekwondo schools across the country. Of all U.S. cities, 4,500 schools are operating in California with L.A. being home to about 200.
The primary mission of the newly launching branch is to enhance to standard of how the sport’s participants are training.
“The U.S. is obviously a step slower in adopting the technical information provided in Korea,” Kim said. “We’d like to make it possible for the U.S. to adopt the new techniques and programs directly without having to send anyone to Korea to obtain new information.”
Until now, black belt holders in taekwondo who wished to test for seventh degree or higher were required to travel to Korea for their tests. However, establishing the L.A. branch will enable them to take the test within the U.S.
However, there are critics who question the plan to open an office in L.A.
Unlike the taekwondo trainees in Korea where all tests are conducted at Kukkiwon, those in the U.S. whose levels are below seventh degree black belt can simply advance by taking the test at their respective schools. Some instructors at U.S. taekwondo schools are concerned that implementing a Kukkiwon-centric operation could affect the financial earnings of the instructors in the country.
“We’re going to maintain the current system by letting U.S.-based instructors to test their students,” said Kim. “Our fundamental goal is to help the instructors.”
Kukkiwon has secured a direct communication route to L.A.’s city government. Kim and other Kukkiwon employees have met with Councilman David Ryu last week to discuss their plans.
Kukkiwon America also plans to partner with the Korea Tourism Organization and the Korean Cultural Center to host various events. One of its first main events will be held next year when it hosts the Kukkiwon Cup in L.A.
By Sangho Hwang