As we begin the New Year, I would like to respond to certain concerns that some of you have expressed.
Some are discouraged that more than two years after the death of our Founder, there are still two other groups claiming to be the "real" ITF. They are tired of the ongoing conflict and don’t understand why it can’t be settled.
Others just want to practice Taekwon-Do and not have to worry about the "political" side. They are interested in Taekwon-Do training and the values it promotes; they want to continue to perfect their techniques and participate in competitions.
A few have even been suggested that the leaders of the ITF are partly responsible for the situation, because we took legal action, asking the tribunals to stop the wrongful activities of Mr. Chang Ung’s group.
Some have urged a more conciliatory approach toward Mr. Chang Ung’s group, while others believe we are not doing enough to counter their repeated attacks.
A lot of false rumors have been spread and erroneous information has been circulated. This has created uncertainty and been a source of confusion for many. So I would like to set the record straight by explaining what has happened, what it means for the ITF, and what we are planning for the future.
Click here to read background information.
At the end of October, a judge in Austria (where the ITF is legally registered) ruled on the question of who are the elected officers of the ITF.
The judgment states that:
The court ascertained that the actions of Mr. Chang Ung and his close collaborators have been wrongful from the time when he first claimed to represent the ITF.
This judgment confirms what we have been saying all along. The evidence is very clear, so there was never any doubt about the outcome.
Click here to read more about this legal decision.
What does this judgment mean for the ITF?
The judgment settled the legal question of who are the officers of the ITF. There is no longer any confusion about which organization is the real ITF and who are its leaders.
Now is the time for all ITF Taekwon-Do practitioners who wish to follow in the steps of our Founder General Choi Hong Hi to unite within the democratic organization that is our heritage from him.
Why the divisions?
As our Founder and leader of the ITF for almost fifty years, General Choi was successful in attracting a large number of people who recognized the fundamental value of ITF Taekwon-Do and understood how it could improve their lives. ITF Taekwon-Do practitioners come from very diverse backgrounds and cultures around the world. While our Founder was alive, we were united by the force of his personality and our shared belief in the ITF Taekwon-Do philosophy and technical system. However, we should not be surprised that divisions occurred after General Choi’s death. This is normal in any organization when the founder is no longer in place, and we have to accept that martial arts organizations are not immune to such problems.
However, this does not mean that we have to accept that our organization be taken over by those who would use it for personal gain or for political purposes. Here is an example from history: The father of modern Karate-do, Gichen Funakoshi noted that as Karate-do became more popular and spread around the world after World War II, rival factions formed in his organization.
Here is what he wrote about his feelings about the divisions:
"Although one might claim that such changes are only the natural result of expansion of Karate-do, it is not evident that one should view such a result with rejoicing rather than with some misgiving."
Preface to Funakoshi´s book, "Karate do Kyohan" Second Edition (dated October 13, 1956) 1973 reprint.
On a personal level, I am sure you have seen the same thing happen in families you know. After the parents die, the surviving children often end up quarreling over their heritage.
And the more valuable the heritage, the more likely it is that the heirs will quarrel about it. The heritage left to us by our Founder is of great value, and the current ITF leaders take very seriously their responsibility and duty to make sure that heritage is protected.
What can the ITF do about the situation?
General Choi recognized the importance of democracy for the ITF, and we should be thankful that he prepared the organization for the future by giving it a Constitution based on democratic principles. Today, our leaders are continuing to build on that foundation to ensure that the ITF will continue to exist and to flourish, no matter who the elected officers are.
What are the "politics" involved?
As I mentioned above, some Taekwon-Do practitioners have told us they want the ITF to concentrate on the practice of Taekwon-Do – the training, the values, the techniques, the competitions – and not get involved in the "politics" of the situation. What do they mean by "politics"?
We could define "politics" in this context as the process of persuading and influencing people to support one’s ideas so that one can exercise power.
Leaders of all organizations have to make decisions for their organization, hence for their members. In a democratic organization, the leaders make decisions using a process that involves discussions about the matter being considered, with each participant trying to influence others. This is a "political" process. When those discussions are based on shared values, mutual trust and respect, they very often lead to consensus and decisions that are made in the best interests of the organization.
It is important to understand that "politics" are unavoidable in any organization, whether it be a government, a sports federation, a school, or a workplace. However, there are good "politics" and bad "politics". Good "politics" are based on the democratic principles and basic human values such as truth and honesty (integrity) and respect (courtesy).
We can identify bad "politics" because the process is used for personal gain or for political purposes, rather than for the good of the organization. In such cases, democratic principles are not applied, and there is no respect for truth or for the history and traditions of the organization. Decisions are not the result of discussions and consensus; they are dictated.
How much better it is when an organization operates according to democratic principles! The ITF has always emphasized the importance of the Taekwon-Do principles and values, and we are following our Founder’s lead by continuing to develop the teaching of the Do, equipping our students with a deeper knowledge of the ITF Taekwon-Do philosophy that will serve them well in all facets of their lives.
Good "politics" based on ITF Taekwon-Do principles can be a useful tool, a tool we must learn to use to protect the future of the ITF. Good "politics" will help us to carry out our promise to be champions of justice and freedom and to build a better and peaceful world.
How do democratic principles apply?
General Choi recognized the importance of democracy for the future of the ITF, and he demonstrated this by submitting himself to the election process outlined in the Constitution. He built a solid foundation for the democratic organization of the ITF.
We recently asked our National Associations to respond to a survey consisting of a number of detailed questions. In answer to the question about what they expect from the ITF, "democratic operations" was the number one choice, with 86% of the National Associations putting it at the top of their list.
This is encouraging, but we cannot simply choose to become a democratic organization; we have to work at it continuously. When making decisions, we must always be guided by the ITF Taekwon-Do tenets: courtesy, integrity, self-control, perseverance, and indomitable spirit. Of course there may be problems, but we believe we are well equipped to solve them using the rules (the Constitution, By-Law No. 1, and the policies) and the structure we have put in place.
Unlike those who would simply impose their will on an organization, the leaders in a democratic system must share power with the members and accept to be evaluated periodically by them. The leaders of the ITF were elected according to the Constitution. The delegates to the Congress Meeting that elected them were all practitioners with many years of experience working under General Choi. Their decisions were made for the good of the organization.
As you know, the officers of the ITF are not elected for life. The Constitution provides the appropriate democratic means to replace them if the members believe others could do a better job.
Experience has taught us that a democratic system is the way to provide the best conditions for the practice and for the promotion of Taekwon-Do, and we will continue to work to make the ITF a well-run democratic organization, offering its members the services they need and want.
Can’t we just ignore the others?
Why can’t we just practice Taekwon-Do and forget about the rest? Because the ITF does not exist in a vacuum.
The ITF and Taekwon-Do are affected by many different forces, internal and external, and some of them could put the future of the organization in jeopardy. We need to act to protect our organization and guarantee its survival. In addition, by acting according to our principles, we will be setting a good example for our students.
Couldn’t we reunite the ITF by collaborating?
How can you collaborate with people who have shown they have no respect for the truth? Do we have to give up our principles to buy peace?
Let’s look at some of the actions taken by Mr. Chang Ung and his supporters:
Mr. Chang Ung was proclaimed president, not elected according to the ITF Constitution. Because the Constitution was put in place by General Choi, this action shows a complete lack of respect for the ITF and its Founder. How can we work together with people who do not respect the Constitution? Once again, we ask: Must we give up our principles to buy peace?
Mr. Chang Ung claims General Choi chose him as the next president of the ITF. We are told that, as he was dying, General Choi whispered his choice to one person at his bedside. It is, of course, impossible to know for sure what, if anything, General Choi said at that time. But knowing our Founder and the principles he lived by, we can certainly question that claim. For example:
Mr. Chang Ung’s claim is simply not credible!
Now let’s look at some of the actions taken by Mr. Chang Ung and his supporters:
By their actions, they have clearly demonstrated that they do not respect the ITF Taekwon-Do rules and that they have no concern for the credibility of the organization.
In a recent attack, they use an unsigned statement on their Web site to falsely accuse Master Tom MacCallum and Master Paul Weiler of attempting to rob the ITF headquarters on November 19th last. In fact, Mr. McCallum, whose status as Secretary of the ITF has been confirmed by the Austrian court, was acting on behalf of the ITF to take back possession of the headquarters building from Mr. Chang Ung’s group. When it became clear that those occupying the building would resort to violence, Masters MacCallum and Weiler wisely decided to withdraw and resort to more peaceful and legal means to obtain justice.
That unsigned statement on the Web site also includes a series of vague accusations and a rejection of the Austrian court judgment. Obviously they are not happy with the judge’s decision that:
Also on their Web site is a copy of a letter from the IOC Chief of Staff. This letter states that the IOC will not comment on the court decision, because the ITF is not recognized by the IOC. It also states: "Furthermore, at this stage, this court decision does not refer to any unethical behavior which would affect your situation as an IOC member".
What can we do about this?
Mr. Chang Ung is a member of the International Olympic Committee, so I have written to the President of the IOC several times to make him aware of Mr. Chang Ung’s activities. Recently I sent a letter to the IOC President, with a copy to the IOC Ethics Commission, to inform them about the decision of the Austrian court.
Click here to read the letter (131 kB)
The special representative of the IOC Ethics Commission, Ms Pâquerette Girard Zappelli, responded on behalf of her chairman in a letter dated December 22nd 2005. Although the letter indicates that they will not take any action at this time, it is interesting to note that she addresses me as the President of the ITF (the first time anyone from the IOC has done so). Obviously the IOC now recognizes the officers of the ITF as confirmed by the Austrian court.
Click here to read the letter (26 kB)
We must not be shocked that the IOC is trying to ignore the problem of Mr. Chang Ung and his actions. It would be surprising if they did otherwise. After all, if they accept that the conduct of an IOC member is unethical, they will have to take action against him. What we can do is to continue to put pressure on the IOC through its members around the world and by interesting the media in the situation.
In my mind – and this has been confirmed by the judgment by the Austrian court -- there is only one ITF, and its leaders are those elected according to the Constitution. Those groups that do not respect the ITF Constitution (and the judicial decision that confirmed the application of the provisions of the Constitution in the choice of its officers) are not the ITF.
Your ITF leaders have experience, credibility, values, and vision. They can show what they have accomplished since their election by the ITF Congress. Look at what we have achieved in the past two and a half years and judge for yourself.
Click here to read more (144 kB)
We know there are some Taekwon-Do instructors who belong to an organization affiliated with Mr. Chang Ung’s group simply out of loyalty to their masters. Now that Mr. Chang Ung’s claim to leadership has been shown to be based on misrepresentations, those instructors are in a position to lead their students back to the real ITF. Then they will be able to continue to progress in Taekwon-Do within the organization that respects the ITF Taekwon-Do principles and values.
The doors of the ITF are open to all Taekwon-Do practitioners who are looking for a democratically operated organization. All our members must respect the principles and basic values of ITF Taekwon-Do and show respect for our history and traditions.
In the ITF, rules are clearly defined and publicly known. They are applied to everyone without favoritism or discrimination. When it comes to making decisions for an international democratic organization, there can be no borders, no discrimination based on race, religion, language or culture. Sites for future international competitions are chosen by a fair public process. Judges for competitions are knowledgeable and experienced; judging is objective and unbiased. Unethical conduct will not be tolerated in the organization.
If this is the kind of Taekwon-Do organization you want to be part of, we will be pleased to welcome you to the ITF.
(Click here to send an e-mail message to Mr. Juan Ferrando, Chair of the ITF Welcome Committee)
So what will happen now? To provide the best conditions for the practice of Taekwon-Do we must make sure that the ITF continues to grow, but also that it remains true to the principles and values of our Founder. This is what we intend to do.
We will continue to work together to make the ITF an organization we can all be proud of, a professional operation that provides more and better services for its members.
In 2006, you can look forward to:
We are now finalizing our detailed action plans for 2006.
On behalf of the officers of the ITF, I offer each of you our best wishes for the New Year. We wish you happiness and success in 2006, and we promise to continue to work to make the ITF an organization you can be proud to belong to, an organization you can rely on to teach you the art of life.
Master Trân Trieu Quân