Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Taekwondo now mandatory training for South African Army

The South African Army has opened a taekwondo center in an army base, which will bring up 100 taekwondo instructors who will take charge of South African soldiers' physical training. Korean Ambassador to South Africa Kim Kyun-seop, Korean Defense Attaché to South Africa (Lieutenant Colonel) Lee Sang-hae, a South African Army Major General and South African military officers participated in the opening ceremony.

The center will produce around 200 taekwondo instructors by the end of this year (2008). "The Republic of South Africa has the strongest economy in Africa, and it has peace keeping operations dispersed in countries such as the Sudan and Congo. So, it will be a good opportunity to promote taekwondo in African countries," said Lieutenant Colonel Lee. A 5th-degree black belt holder himself, Lee played a key role in making the Korean martial art required physical training for the South African Army.

The exporting of taekwondo is expected to have various ripple effects. In the training, verbal command will be given in Korean and South African soldiers will have a chance to speak it. Also, it will be a great opportunity for the Korean government to promote the country and strengthen bilateral ties at a time when the Chinese government is striving to penetrate the African market. Also, it is highly likely that African countries will import Korean-made defense items in the future.

The South African Army chose to introduce taekwondo in the belief that it will fortify its troops in general. A South African officer said, "According to the UK Army's assessment in the past, our troops lacked hand-to-hand combat training experience. The UK Army sent a team of advisors for physical training, but they are gone now. So, we decided to start taekwondo training."

Lee further explained that the Korean martial art provides not only physical strength but also spiritual cultivation, so it could play a part in correcting morale problems, including sexual harassment in the army.

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