North Korea was yesterday accused of infiltrating an international taekwondo group and using it as a front for espionage and assassination, including a planned 1982 attempt on the life of South Korean president Chun Doo Hwan, Reuters reports.
That's according to Choi Jung-hwa, son of the late General Choi Hong-hi who established the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) in South Korea in 1966. Choi junior told the Korea Times: "After taking control of the ITF, the North trained spies and sent them overseas, disguising them as taekwondo masters."
The communist state's cunning plan was facilitated by Choi senior's falling out with the then South Korean president Park Chung-hee, causing him to take himself and the ITF to Canada in the 1970s.
In 1982, acting on Pyongyang orders, Choi junior planned to hit Chun Doo Hwan during a visit to Canada, but local police "got wind of the plan and Choi fled to North Korea".
He returned to his native land yesterday "to clear up misunderstandings about his past", the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reports. He said: "I have committed some wrongs whether it was my intention or not. I should pay for what I have done." ®
While the ITF flourished abroad, 1973 saw the birth in South Korea of the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) which subsequently "dwarfed" the former in terms of local membership. WTF taekwondo - which "differs from ITF in sparring techniques and strategies" - became an Olympic sport at the Sydney 2000 games.
Following Choi senior's death in 2002, the ITF splintered into three rival groups, two in Austria and the third in Canada.