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Get your kicks, Korean styleTaekwondo classes in Jeju invite foreigners to join in
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승인 2009.08.03  17:39:08
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▲ English teacher Lauvie Hatleberg shows her high kick. Photo by Colleen Hyde

Taekwondo is the national sport of Korea and it is a common sight on any evening to see the children of Jeju walking around in their Taekwondo uniforms. But adult foreigners can also get in on the action and learn about Korean culture and language at the same time.

The Samsung Taekwondo Studio in Jeju City offers classes to foreigners willing to spar with pint-sized martial arts masters. That’s right, adults and children share the same classes.

Foreigners welcome to join in
Instructor JinJoo Kim and Grand Master MinBoo Kong both speak English and are eager to share Taekwondo with the Jeju foreign community.

English teacher Amanda Trumbower studied with JinJoo Kim and said, “Taekwondo is such a part of Korea that it really helped me to understand more of Korean culture while leaning a valuable skill and a little Korean at the same time.”

Taekwondo class is a great way to get to interact with Jeju children in a unique setting, learn more about Korean culture and even learn some Korean.

The name Taekwondo comes from three Korean words: “tae,” which means to strike with the foot, “kwon,” which means to strike with the fist, and “do,” which can be translated as method. So Taekwondo is an unarmed sport using both hands and feet to defend and strike opponents. During class students are taught basic Taekwondo defensive and offensive moves.

After a warm up of jump roping and group stretches, the class usually breaks into smaller groups. Each beginning a student is assigned to another student with a higher rank who teaches the basic moves and forms. Belt color is more important than age and foreigners can often find themselves in a role reversal. They are the student and often a 12-year-old is their teacher for the lesson while the instructor oversees. Every class is a little different but generally they are a good workout and include a lot of time to socialize.

Students share a common language
It is also possible to learn the Korean language while taking Taekwondo lessons. As students learn new moves they must also memorize the Korean words and phrases. To move on to new color belts they are tested on command of the moves and knowledge of the terms and commands. Foreign Taekwondo students therefore have an incentive to learn Korean. It is also easier to interact with fellow students by learning simple phrases and words.

▲ Lauvie Hatleberg practices her posture (poomsae) with ehr coatch. Photo by Colleen Hyde

But this is truly a language exchange because, at the same time, the Jeju children get to try out their English skills outside the classroom. A Taekwondo student Laurie Hatleberg felt that Korean “was a lot easier to learn in context” and that JinJoo Kim “encouraged all students in the class to use both Korean and English which put everyone on the same footing.”

Studying Taekwondo is really an excellent chance to have hands-on experience in a truly Korean tradition. Taekwondo is an ancient martial art created in Korea. It is believed that early forms emerged during the Three Kingdoms Period of Korea (57B.C.-668A.D.) when Taekwondo was used in the military. Taekwondo was also recorded in Korean folk games when men would fight for entertainment. It continued to evolve throughout Korean history and even through the Joseon Dynasty.

Martial art experiencing resurgence
Taekwondo all but disappeared during the Japanese occupation of 1910-1945. The Japanese forbid the study of Taekwondo and tried to instead introduce karate. During this time though, Taekwondo was secretly kept alive and passed from master to master. When other Korean traditions began to reemerge after liberation in 1945, Taekwondo also worked its way back into mainstream Korean culture. After the Korean War Taekwondo became the part of every soldier’s training and is still used in the Korean military. Despite this military history, the emphasis today is that Taekwondo is a sport. Taekwondo became an official sport in the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics, bringing Korea’s national sport to the international stage. An estimated 70 million people study Taekwondo and it is taught in over 180 countries around the world. Taekwondo has become an ambassador of Korean language and tradition.
Samsung Taekwondo studio is located north of the Jeju City Bus Terminal. Contact Samsung Taekwondo at 064-721-1325 or Kim JinJoo at 010-7135-4496. Classes are offered Monday through Saturday.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (
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