The first time Taekwon-Do was demonstrated abroad was 1959, when then, Major General Choi, Hong Hi, founder of Taekwon-Do and the first president of the International Taekwon-Do Federation led his top black belts to Vietnam and Taiwan. Among those pioneers that made this historic trip were, Nam Tae Hi, Chun Ko Jae, Baek Joon Gi, Lim Woo Jong, Han Cha Kyo, Cha Soo Yong and Kim Bok Man. It was reported that some 360,000 Vietnamese spectators were on hand to view, in person, the techniques of this new Martial Art.
Public exhibitions of Taekwon-Do have been very important in the history and development of this Korean Art of Self Defense. In fact, back in 1954, black belt members assigned to the 29th Infantry Division, under the command of General Choi, performed in front of the then President of the Republic of Korea, Seung Man Rhee. After watching Nam Tae Hi break roofing tiles with his fist, President Rhee wanted the military trained in this Art. From there it spread to the police service and civilian gyms throughout the Korea.
As Taekwon-Do goodwill tours reached other nations, it helped to set up centers in those countries as well. This formed the foundation for what established the International Taekwon-Do Federation in 1966, some seven years before the World Taekwon-Do Federation was started.
In 1973 the ITF Demonstration Team toured 23 countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle and Far East. During this tour, more than 100,000 spectators watched then VII Dan Masters Kong Yong Il, Park Jong Soo, Rhee Ki Ha, Park Sun Jae and Choi Chang Keun perform. In 1978 the 5th ITF Demonstration Team, comprised of Choi Chang Keun, Rhee Ki Ha, Park Jung Tae and Liong Wai Meng toured Sweden and then the Eastern Bloc countries of Poland, Hungary and Yugoslavia, for the first time.
Two years later the 7th ITF Demonstration Team tour north Korea, marking the first time Taekwon-Do was introduced to the Korean people in the northern part of the peninsular. This Team was made up of nine Koreans living overseas and five Westerners, including Charles E. Sereff. The following year, the late great Grand Master Park Jung Tae, then a VII Dan Master with the ITF and Chairman of the Instruction Committee taught an extensive seven month course which was responsible for the initial group of instructors
The graduates of this course performed in front of 10,000 people and Taekwon-Do took hold in the north of Korea. They have produced some of the finest performers, instructors and world champions. I witnessed first hand the caliber of the ITF Korean Demonstration Team way back in 1988. The Demo Team came onto the international stage at the 6th World Championships held in Budapest, Hungary. They amazed me and all the other spectators at the stadium and the countless others who watched in their homes, via the extensive television coverage.
Many others may have seem them perform flawlessly at other venues around the world. This was the same team that introduced Taekwon-Do to the former Soviet Union, also in 1988. This team put 1,600 black belts on the field of a 150,000 seat stadium, filled to capacity, during the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students. This Festival took place during July of 1989, in Pyongyang, Korea.
I was fortunate to watch that amazing show live and again watch this team demonstrate magnificently in May of this year. That was at the 40th Anniversary celebration of the ITF in Pyongyang. Many of you may have seen them over the years, or watch them on video, when they put on an exhibition in the south of Korea. That took place in November of 2002. This was the first time that Taekwon-Do students from the north performed in the southern part of the peninsular.
This year, during the fall, the ITF Korean Demonstration Team will make a multi city tour of the United States of America. The team will be led by VII Dan Master Son Song Gun. He was the 1988 World Champion in both patterns and sparring. Master Son Song Gun has toured many countries demonstrating Taekwon-Do and has taught in Austria, Mongolia and Czechoslovakia. It is hoped that Taekwon-Do will play a similar role that table tennis (ping pong) did, for the warming up of the relationship between the USA and China, back in the 60s and 70s.