With the Peace Corps, Taekwondo leads by example
World sport owes much to ChoueChung-won and so does the world of peace. The South Korean leader, who’s been president of the International Taekwondo Federation (WTF) for over ten years, is behind one of the most advanced initiatives in the development of peace through sport. In 2008, he came up with the idea to establish a Taekwondo Peace Corps volunteer program. The idea was for this program to engage young volunteers on the ground, in some of the areas in the world most affected by violence and conflict. In just a few years, the project has taken off beyond expectations. In 2010, two years after its launch, the initiative was presented at the Conference on Sport for Development and Peace, held in Geneva by the IOC and the UN, and in 2012 it already brought together almost 900 volunteers across 86 countries.
This contribution from Dr. Choue Chung-won has not left us at Peace and Sport indifferent. In November 2012, we selected the WTF among one of the three nominees for the International Federation of the Year award, presented during our International Forum in Sochi. With this designation, we wanted to highlight the work achieved by the federation and its president in terms of values transfer, sharing of experience and solidarity with the youth of the world. Today the WTF program has more than 1,300 volunteers and is present in 100 countries.
Encouraged by this success, Choue Chung-won and the WTF are determined to further advance this success story. The South Korean president suggested at a recent international media forum held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, the creation of a Global Peace Corps sports initiative. A corps of volunteers for peace through sport that could promote ‘positive values and rules of discipline’ among youth in developing countries, war zones and refugee camps.
In Ashgabat, Choue Chung-won did not only take the opportunity to voice his idea to the world media. The president of the WTF is today appealing to the IOC, the United Nations and other international federations to convey his idea, to gain ownership of it and to talk to as many people about it so it may see the light. Above all, he calls them to join him. “For the IOC and the United Nations, the idea of the Global Peace Corps sports program would definitely be a “win-win” solution because its concept is perfectly in line with the principles of these two organizations.” While I am extremely pleased to share this passion, I also wish to highlight that peace through sport is something not to be taken lightly, and that it is not easy to implement on the ground. On the contrary, it calls for careful reflection and a practical, long-term approach. Reliable partners are essential and field actors must be sufficiently informed and trained to ensure a sustainable approach through their actions in context-specific environments.
Experience has shown that major sports organizations can play a fundamental role in bringing about positive change. By mobilizing their champions, past and present – as we do at Peace and Sport since our establishment – and by involving coaches and building local resources. This is how they can make a real difference. “By joining forces with the IOC, the United Nations, national Olympic committees and other sports federations, we are able to bring lasting peace and harmony through sport,” says Choue Chung-won. The development of peace through sport is everyone’s business. But together, we will always be stronger.