During the Koryo dynasty, founded in 918 A.D., and the Yi dynasty that followed it, Taekwondo, then known as Subak, was not only practiced as a skill to improve health and as a sports activity but was also encouraged as a martial art of considerably high virtue. Subak is believed to have gained its greatest popularity during the reign of King Uijong, between1147 and 1170 A.D. This period roughly corresponds to the Chinese Sung and Ming dynasties, during which Chinese Kung fu became widely popular. Taekwondo, however, is purely Korean in origin, having achieved independent development throughout the long history of Korea.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the ruling Japanese occupiers of Korea outlawed Taekwondo. It then went underground, where people practiced it secretly and once again kept it alive. In 1954, when Korea was liberated from the Japanese, a number of Korean who was interested in Taekwondo took steps to revitalize this ancient and traditional martial art. About ten schools were founded by masters with different particular philosophies and different emphases on techniques to express their difference in style.
Between the period of the Japanese occupation and the Korean war, from the turn of the century to 1950, the name for the Korean martial art changed several times. It was first known as Kon Soo (empty hand), the Tang Soo (Tang hand), the Hwarang Do (warrior spirit), and then Tae Kyun (kicking punching).
In the early 1950’s and 1960’s, there were several associations formed for the development of Korea’s unique and indigenous martial art – a Korea Tang Soo Do Association, a Korea Soo Bahk Do Association, a Korea Tae Soo do Association, and a Korea Taekwondo Association.
On February 23, 1963, the Taekwondo Association joined the Korean Athletic Association and began to participate in national tournaments. Since then Taekwondo has flourished and spread in popularity, becoming the national sport of Korea. It is now include as part of the school curriculum from first grade through college and is required for military service.
In 1965, the Taekwondo Association was recognized by the other Associations and the Korean government, and was adopted as the organization to bring the different groups and schools together into one. Mr. Young Chai Kim was elected president.
In 1970, the Board of Directors of the Taekwondo Association elected Dr. Un Yong Kim their next president.
In 1972, Kukkiwon (the Headquarters of the World Taekwondo Federation) was built in Seoul to train advanced students from all over the world. Dr. Un yong Kim was elected president of Kukkiwon. Kukkiwon serves as a research center for the advancement of Taekwondo as a scientific sport, provides a testing center for black belt promotions, and is used to hold national and international Taekwondo championships.
In May 1973, the First World Taekwondo Championship were held at Kukkiwon. Since the formation of the World Taekwondo Federation and the successful first World Taekwondo Championship, there have been many international championships held annually all over the world, such as the European TKD Championship, the African TKD Championship. The Middle East TKD Championship, the South American TKD Championship, the Pan American TKD Championship, the Asian TKD Championship, and many invitational international championships.
In May 1981, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) approved the inclusion of Taekwondo in the 1988 Olympic Games to be held in Korea and 1992 Olympic Games to be held in Barcelona, Spain.
In year 2000, Taekwondo became an Official Olympic Medal Sport in Sydney, Australia.