WT Brings Message of Peace to N. Korea

PYONGYANG ― The World Taekwondo (WT) demonstration team has sent out a powerful message of peace through their performance in the heart of the North Korean capital.

In the Taekwondo Hall, members of the South-Korean team showcased their trademark high-flying kicks and punches Wednesday evening in front of an audience of more than 2,300 Pyongyang residents.

Among them were WT President Choue Chung-won, North Korea’s National Athletics Guidance Committee chairman Choi Hui and International Taekwondo Federation President (ITF) Ri Yong-sun.

 

“It was a great performance,” team chief Na Il-han said. “All the members looked much more confident and comfortable this time compared with their first visit here in April.”

Team coach Song Mi-ra, who is visiting Pyongyang for the second time, said she is now more comfortable and familiar with the city’s atmosphere.

“I’m glad taekwondo plays an important role in bringing the two Koreas together,” she said. “We feel like we are part of something great and we are very happy about that.”

In their first performance, the athletes focused on demonstrating the sport’s high-level skills. But the latest performance also added storytelling, which described the hopes for lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.

 

Athletes wearing “dobok” of four colors ― white, blue, red and black ― lightened the mood with group poomsae (forms), followed by kick breaks and choreographed fight routines. Then came advanced breaks involving double heel-kicks, jumping axe-kicks and many more.

The climax came when they started dancing to famous traditional songs including “Spring of Hometown,” the North Korean popular song “Nice to Meet You,” and “Hand in Hand” (the theme song of the 1988 Seoul Olympics).

In response, the crowd, including everyone in the VIP seats, gave them a standing ovation.

“When I heard the reaction from the crowd, I felt connected with them,” said Seo Jae-won, 22. “They were far more enthusiastic and natural than last time.”

After their performance, Choue, Choi and Ri came down to the floor to congratulate the team members.

On Friday, the team will have a joint performance with the ITF demonstration team at the same venue and, after the event, probably have dinner together. Many athletes, including Choi Han-na, 22, are excited about the upcoming “reunion.”

“I’m excited to see one of the ITF members, whom I met and talked with after April’s event,” she said. “I never thought I would be able to return here and see him again … We shared our thoughts about taekwondo, which was very interesting. I would like to do it again with him.”