World History of Taekwondo

The history of Taekwondo in Korea goes back to the Koguryo dynasty, founded 37B.C. Taekwondo was also practiced during the Silla dynasty. Hwarangdo, a military and educational organisation and noble youths of the Silla dynasty also had a great influence. The code of honor on which the Hwarang was based was loyalty to the nation, respect and obedience to one’s ‘parents, faithfulness, courage in battle and avoidance of unnecessary violence.

Koryo and YI Dynasties

In the history of Koryo, Taekwondo was called “Subak” and practiced not only as a skill to improve health but as a sport. Subak is believed to have gained its highest popularity during the reign of King Uijong, between 1,147 and 1,170 A.D. This is the same time as the Chinese Song and Ming dynasties, during which the Chinese “Kungfu” became widely popular.

Taekwondo in the 20th century

Japan occupied Korea between WW1 and WW2. In this time only Japanese martial arts were allowed to be practiced, mainly Karate and Judo. However privately the Korean people would continue to practice the traditional arts to pass onto their children as a chance to maintain the historical Korean culture.


On August 15, 1945, the Japanese occupation of Korea ended. Korean arts began to flourish again. The counties of South Korea were unified and Taekwondo was noted as the National Martial Art. On September 16, 1961, the Korea Taekwondo Association was established. On October 9, 1963, Taekwondo became an official event for the first time in the 44th National Athletic Meet when competition rules and protective equipment evolved.

Korean instructors began going abroad to teach Taekwondo in the 1960s. In May 1973, the 1st World Taekwondo Championships held in Seoul with 19 countries participating. On May 28, 1973, representatives of those countries established the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF).


By 1996, the WTF included 144 countries and it was estimated that 30 million people were practicing Taekwondo. In the IOC’s 83rd General Session in 1980S, the IOC recognised Taekwondo. It participated as a demonstration sport of the 24th Seoul Olympics in 1988 and the 25th Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

Taekwondo was recognised as an official sport of 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. It has since been featured in most major international competitions