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Who is Choi Hong Hi?

Choi Hong-hi, a South Korean Army General and martial artist, played a crucial role in the history of Taekwondo. However, he remains controversial due to his introduction of Taekwondo in North Korea. Many regard Choi as the "Founder of Taekwon-Do", particularly organizations belonging to the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF), the first international federation for Taekwondo, which he founded. However, others, such as World Taekwondo, portray Choi as either unimportant or dishonorable in Taekwondo history. His omission from their versions of Taekwondo history or through explicit statements has led to this controversy.

Born on 9 November 1918 in what is now North Korea, Choi claimed that his father sent him to study calligraphy under Han Il-dong, who was "a master of Taekkyeon, the ancient Korean art of foot fighting". However, he later recanted this story and said that he never studied taekkyeon and that it had nothing to contribute to Taekwondo. Choi traveled to Japan, where he studied English, mathematics, and karate. While in Kyoto, he met a fellow Korean named Kim, who was a karate instructor and Choi learned this martial art from him. Choi also learned Shotokan karate under Funakoshi Gichin. Following an argument with a wrestler named Hu, Choi trained extensively in martial arts to defend himself if necessary. He achieved the rank of 1st dan in karate in 1939 and then 2nd dan soon after.

Forced to serve in the Japanese army during World War II, Choi was implicated in a rebellion and imprisoned. Following the war, in January 1946, Choi was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Korean army. Over the years, he received promotions to first lieutenant, captain, major, lieutenant colonel, and then brigadier general. He was promoted to major general in 1954.

Choi combined elements of Taekkyon, Oh Do Kwan Karate, and Tang Soo Do to develop a style of the martial art known as "Taekwondo". He founded the Oh Do Kwan and held an honorary 4th dan ranking in the Chung Do Kwan. However, due to accusations of dishonesty, Choi was stripped of his rank and position in the Chung Do Kwan. ITF Taekwondo organizations credit Choi with starting the spread of Taekwondo internationally by stationing Korean taekwondo instructors around the world. He was also the author of the first English taekwondo syllabus book, "Taekwon-Do," published by Daeha Publication Company in 1965. Despite his significant contributions to the sport, in 1972, Choi went into exile in Canada after the South Korean government objected to his introduction of the sport into North Korea. The South Korean government subsequently formed the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) in 1973, which was renamed to WT in 2018. In 1979, Choi traveled and defected to North Korea, where he was supported by the government in spreading Taekwondo to the world. 



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