Taekwondo has secret observersAt the Athens Games, Korean officials have been extremely careful to make the taekwondo competitions as fair and square as possible, but the person at the top is taking no chances.
Choue Chung-won, president of the World Taekwondo Federation, recently revealed that he has hired five officials whose identities are known to him alone to monitor the matches and the refereeing.
The president said that these incognito personnel would report directly to him on every match.
The move came as a surprise, even to Korean officials.
“Even inside the organization nobody knew that there was such a plan. The president wanted to make sure that security was at its highest level,” said Seo Jeong-gang, an official with the WTF, in a phone interview with the JoongAng Daily.
“Most of the times complaints are aimed at specific scoring. Since Korea has been dominant in the sport, there have been complaints that the refereeing favors us, which of course isn’t true,” said Mr. Seo.
According to the WTF, if any of the 24 referees gets picked up for misconduct, he will lose his refereeing license permanently.
The increased scrutiny comes at a time when Kim Un-yong, who is now suspended from his duties as International Olympic Committee vice president and was the driving force behind taekwondo’s international rise, is currently serving a prison sentence after being convicted of embezzling million of dollars from taekwondo organizations. Under Kim’s guidance, taekwondo became an official medal sport at the Sydney Games.
In addition to the Kim debacle, taekwondo has seen its fair share of controversies.
Lee Jong-woo, a former senior taekwondo official, said in an interview with a Korean magazine two years after the Sydney Games that he exercised some influence over the judging. Lee later said that he was quoted out of context.
Those inside the taekwondo community point out that Choue’s action is aimed at quelling in advance complaints by other nations and cleaning up the sport’s image.
The International Olympic Committee is scheduled to convene next year in July to decide what sports will be included as Olympic sports at the 2012 Games.
Though there are eight weight classes for taekwondo at the Olympics, each nation is allowed to send only four athletes, a rule that was seen by many as an attempt to keep South Korea from monopolizing the sport.
by Brian Lee