International Taekwon-Do Federation


Tae kwon do master built the art in Canada, Jung Tae Park led 100-country federation

Rachelle Younglai, Staff Reporter

Grand master Jung Tae Park, a fearless perfectionist, was revered throughout the international tae kwon do community.

Among the first instructors to carry the national Korean sport outside the country, Mr. Park was hailed as a pioneer of modern tae kwon do. An immigrant to Canada in the early '70s, he later founded the Global Taekwon Do Federation, one of the strongest such federations in the world and the only one free of political affiliations.

Contrary to tae kwon do traditionalists, Mr. Park believed that the form should keep on growing and created more than a dozen new patterns and teachings. In 1995, he created the longest pattern, the Jook-am, which is 95 moves and can take 10 minutes to complete.

Mr. Park maintained a hectic schedule of travelling, teaching and demonstrating despite ailing health. On April 11, he succumbed to kidney and liver complications. He was 58.

Mr. Park was born in South Korea in 1944. When he was 7 years old, his brother introduced him to boxing. From there, he dabbled in judo and then settled on tae kwon do. He moved to Winnipeg in the '70s and started promoting the martial art there.

"He did demonstrations wherever he could find space, in malls, in parking lots," said his wife Linda, who met him in tae kwon do classes. Mr. Park founded the Manitoba Taekwon Do Association.

After the couple's first two children were born, they moved to Mississauga, where Mr. Park worked tirelessly on behalf of the International Taekwon Do Federation.

Not wanting the art form to be associated with any political group, he left the international federation, which has ties to North Korea, in the late '80s and founded the global federation in 1990.

North and South Korea fund the international and world tae kwon do federations respectively, while the global group receives no such funding.

"He just wanted to be true to the art form," said Karl Sweet, managing director of the global group. "He was a purist at heart."

Mr. Park, who held a ninth degree black belt, the highest level, was known for his impeccable technique. The 5-foot-9 master could jump over cars.

"He wanted to pump out the best tae kwon do teachers," Sweet said. The global federation grew under his leadership and has members in more than 100 countries.

"He was known to hundreds of thousands of people. He inspired everybody."

But for all his accomplishments, Mr. Park remained a humble man with an utter devotion to the art form. "It didn't matter if you were a white belt or a black belt," Linda said. "He showed the same courtesy to someone just starting."

Mr. Park would sit through lengthy tournaments. "People would just gravitate toward him," Linda said. " Kids would look at him with amazement and just beam ... his hand would cramp from signing too many autographs."

His humble demeanour never changed from work to home, and his own children would say, "Dad's too forgiving." His children - Juliann, 30, Heather, 27, and Christopher, 20 - all practise tae kwon do.

Mr. Park sacrificed his whole life for the martial art, and while lying in the hospital he told his wife, "If I die on your lap going to tae kwon do, that's good enough."

And so it is. As Mr. Park dedicated his life to tae kwon do, his followers made the journey to Mississauga last weekend to pay their respects to the grand master, with some coming from as far away as Sri Lanka, Poland, Korea and Norway.

Mr. Park will be honoured at the Global Taekwon Do Federation World Championships in Toronto, July 11 to 14.

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