World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) President Choue Chung-won often says that for taekwondo to improve its appeal to a global audience, it should consider beach volleyball as a model. His candid point is that the allure of beach volleyball is much more than slapping balls from one direction to another, published m.koreatimes.co.kr.
His version of taekwondo is something between a traditional martial art and a showy musical performance, a sport that provides theatrics fit for the 21st century audience.
Calbe Shin, CEO of media company Mantra World TV and also a choreographer of WTF’s demonstration team, which is devoted to ceremonial performances, agrees with the need to change taekwondo’s overall image.
“I think we already have marketable stars,’’ Shin said.
“Now, we need a more marketable sport.’’
Some of Shin’s ideas would leave purists cringing. He is considering putting makeup, including eyeliner, on the athletes for the special performance here on Wednesday night to make them look “cooler.’’ He also doesn’t believe that taekwondo demonstrations should be performed only by those trained as athletes.
“Perhaps it is faster to teach jazz artists taekwondo than teach athletes jazz,” Shin said. “My role is to make them popular which will naturally lead to an enlargement of the fan base. I don’t think we should just stick to athletes.”
The WTF Demonstration Team General Director Na Il-han agreed that appearance has become an important factor in judging process along with athleticism and practice form, “poomse.’’
“I believe taekwondo is a sport that has the most spectacular stage demonstration, which has plenty of potential for becoming even more popular to over 100 million people worldwide and beyond,’’ Na said.
Fans may see the demonstration team of only women or of some non-Koreans being part for a broader appeal.
“Many ideas are on the table. You might see such teams soon,” Na said.
Hiring non-Koreans in Korea has been difficult because athletes have to spend so much time together for practice, although the WTF has collaborated with local athletes for its shows abroad. However, a lack of time for practice makes it difficult for the team to perform high-level techniques.
“But the door is always open,” Na said. “We are trying to come up with programs where anyone can participate in the team.”
The WTF Demonstration Team recruits performers every year through tests where some remain in the team, while others are replaced with new ones. The next test is expected to take place in December.