Wednesday, August 08, 2007

You mess with Taekwondo, you mess with Korea

With North Korea itching to dump a missile on its southern brother, the last thing South Korea needs is another controversy. One low-scale controversy has hit its national sport, Taekwondo (TKD), but don't panic.

Over the weekend, I read an e-book, in which an author talks about undying love for TKD lands the nutty author in South Korea. Insane, and fantastic at parts, the book redefines the meaning of the word 'obsession'. The book's pretty blithe and entertaining.

The author jumps into every moment as if life was at stake -- be it while learning TKD or simply being a foreigner. There are the Korean language problems. Freak dudes. Break-ins. Shabby houses. Double-crossing women. The book ends talking about TKD and Korean peculiarities.

Interesting bits dot the pages -- like plans to build "Taekwondopia," a new TKD HQ, in the hills of Muju. It's an upgrade to Kukkiwon, TKD's crabby HQ, where Koreans enlikened the author to an alien. (Taekwondopia's now Taekwondo Park)

Cute plan by the World Taekwondo Federation. Or deceptive, I thought. The park could attract foreigners and expand TKD's popularity.

Lo and behold, the plan isn't so cute anymore. The harmless project has morphed into a controversy that Koreans are boiling mad over.

A PR stunt gone wrong and a glitzy "Americanize it" marketing campaign are to blame.

Koreans are revolting against TP's international marketing plan, concerned that an American intrusion could destroy the sport. Taekwondo is a national treasure and overtures to the U.S. could attract sponsors like Nike. Americanizing the sport would effectively destroy it.

Even worse was a PR stunt that unknowingly created a national stir. A brochure made TP look like a Japanese joint -- big mistake -- never associate anything Korean with the Japanese. Korean and Japanese martial artists throw hacks at each other regularly, but this one drove all of Korea crazy.

And the icing on the cake --construction's stalled. Planned to start in 2005, TP is now plagued with legislative and public approval delays. That's the price you pay for messing with an environmentally conscious valley.

End game? If you mess with TKD, you mess with Korea. Ask the author. TKD is intertwined with Korea's society and politics, be it as a lazy gym on a city corner, or a sport that brings Olympic medals. More than an art, TKD is a lifestyle, S. Korea's face to the world.

All said, the Taekwondo Park is progressing. It may take 15-30 years, who knows, but it'll come. Serious controversies will piggyback, which will be worth following.

It may revolutionize TKD and bring rival organizations under one roof. WTF, the top TKD organization, could negotiate with rival ITF to be a joint part of the monument. A hard bargain, but ITF won't say no.


Blogger D said...

Hey...interesting perspective. To be honest, In India most of the projects get entrapped in some bureaucratic hassle. And adding more to woes, there are organisations whose sensibilities are kept in mind while going ahead with any project. For e.g. These days there are a set of piligrims who traverse from one pt of India to another, they travel on foot and march on highways, streets and can be seen everywhere, not only they create traffic congestion but also create ruckus sometimes and blv it or not, the govt has set camps for them where they can realx and also provided with refreshments!!

2:30 AM  
Blogger Khakra said...

d, is that because fervent religion overrides everything in India? That is a real ruckus, and a nightmare for civilians, but seems like the government doesn't care.

The radical approach to solve the problem? Give pilgrims biking routes through India's wilderness. And a helmet, a hero bicycle, and chug along, buddies! Less cost for the gov't, less of a headache for us.

Rallies seem to tie into that -- handing cash to a gaggle of folks to stand in a rally like trees. Where else but India? That's why I love the country!

1:50 PM  
Blogger Khakra said...

you welcome zzz! let's just hope soccer rises and spares taekwondo of its misery!

10:46 AM  

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