General Choi Hong Hi, Original President of ITF

In 1965, Choi retired from the South Korean army as a two-star general (major general) and he was appointed as the country's first ambassador to Malaysia, by President Park. NOTE: Some claim Choi was not a general because you must be a four-star general be called a general. While it is true that that only a four-star has the rank of general, all generals (1, 2, 3, and 4 star) are commonly referred to as general. When a one-star rear admiral (lower half) is introduced, he or she is referred to as admiral. The same holds true for colonel or lieutenant colonel, commander or lieutenant commander, first lieutenant or second lieutenant, etc. A military person may correctly be referred to, for the rest of their life, by the last military rank at which they honorably served.

Through Choi's efforts, taekwondo spread through Malaysia and reached national acceptance when, in 1971, the art was demonstrated in the Merdeka Stadium at the request of Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rhaman. In 1965, Ambassador Choi was appointed by the Korean government to lead a goodwill mission to West Germany, Italy, Turkey, United-Arab Republic, Malaysia, and Singapore. This trip was significant in that for the first time in Korean history, it declared taekwondo as the national martial art of Korea. Although Choi briefly returned to Korea to start an international branch of the KTA, he never gained much political influence in Korea.

On March 22, 1966, Choi formed the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) in Seoul, Korea, with the consent of nine countries. The federation established associations in Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, West Germany, Turkey, Italy, Arab Republic of Egypt, Korea, and the United States. This was the first time that the headquarters of an international organization had been established in Korea. The ITF was formed as a private organization and was never the international arm of the KTA.

The next few years saw the exponential growth of taekwondo, with Choi, through the ITF, tirelessly traveling the world to teach and expand his art, especially to the youth of the world. While he was working internationally, others were establishing a stronghold in Korea, which led to his loss of influence within Korea.

A goodwill trip (one of many he made to numerous other countries) to North Korea (he was born in 1918 in Hwa Dae, Myong Chun District in what only became North Korea in 1953) by a taekwondo demonstration team in 1980 caused General Choi to fall in disgrace in the eyes of South Koreans. (Although there was controversy over the trip, Choi did nothing illegal or treasonous). Due to the controversy over the trip, Choi, who was 54 years of age at the time, resigned as president of the KTA and, with the unanimous consent of member countries, moved the ITF to Toronto, Canada. (It was his choice to move the Canada and not to the United States. There was nothing to prevent him from moving to the United States.) Since the ITF was a private organization, not a governmental entity, Choi was allowed to take the ITF with him to Canada.

In Canada, Choi felt that he would be wise to teach taekwondo in North Korea and trained the instructors who would do the job. Through North Korea, he felt that taekwondo could spread to other socialist and third world countries. He made up his mind to produce taekwondo instructors in North Korea who were not contaminated by eastern commercialism. In this way, he felt the true taekwondo, philosophy, and techniques could be developed. In addition, he thought that this movement would stimulate and motivate instructors in the free world.

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