Maryland’s New “Taekwondo Day” Reflects Strong Korean Cultural Presence Across the US

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by Janny Jang
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan demonstrates his taekwondo skills at a ceremony to announce the new Taekwondo Day in his state. Image: Office of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

The state of Maryland recently declared April 5 as "Taekwondo Day” with an official Proclamation by Governor Larry Hogan at a celebration in Annapolis.  Among those present were Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee, considered the “Father of American Taekwondo,” representatives of the Maryland Korean Sister Committee, Maryland State Senator Susan C. Lee, and the Korean Consul General. The specific date was picked to align with Arbor Day in Korea to signify the growing Korean-American community in the state and the thriving relationship between South Korea and Maryland.Top of Form Maryland has the ninth largest Korean American population in the US, rising to sixth largest when measured as a share of its total population. In June of 2015, Governor Hogan went on a trade mission to South Korea to expand trade and educational opportunities.

Taekwondo, a Korean martial art, is a natural symbol of both Korea and the Korean community in the US. It frequently features in Korean-American festivals and celebrations of US-Asia connections. A Maryland elementary school held a taekwondo demonstration as part of its 60th anniversary celebrations. Howard County, where the school is located, comprises of more than 25% of the 55,000 Korean Americans living in the state of Maryland. The Korean embassy in Washington, DC used taekwondo in an outreach program with a fifth grade class from Plummer Elementary School, just one mile from the Maryland border, as part of the “Embassy Adoption Program,” a joint project between DC public schools and various embassies. The US State Department even uses taekwondo in its sports diplomacy efforts through the Sports United Office.

Taekwondo first entered United States in the 1950s and since then flourished to include approximately 7 million practitioners and at least 3,500 clubs across the country. Little Rock, Arkansas is home to one of the major federations, the American Taekwondo Association (ATA), whose annual tournaments contribute an estimated $6 million to the local economy in just one week each year. Over the 30 years of hosting the event, the ATA has brought in over $100 million in economic contribution to the local economy.

There are over 80 universities and colleges across United States in the National Collegiate Taekwondo Association (NCTA). The 41st NCTA Championships were held in April 23-24, 2016 at the University of Colorado in Boulder, the third largest national tournament. A few hours south of Boulder, Colorado Springs is the home of another major federation, USA Taekwondo, which governs more than 800 clubs nationally. The city is also home to the flagship training center for Team USA’s Olympic athletes, though in April it was announced that taekwondo was added as part of athlete residency program hosted by University of Central Oklahoma to expand opportunities for elite-level athletes.

Janny Jang is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a student at American University.