World Taekwondo, the sport's governing body headquartered in South Korea, and its previous warring rival, the North Korea-based International Taekwondo Federation, today moved a step closer to a potential merger, after the two reached agreement to form a joint committee.
Chungwon Choue, president of World Taekwondo, and his ITF counterpart Yong Son Ri signed what has been described as "an historic agreement" in Pyongyang, North Korea to set up a joint body before the end of the year "to narrow their differences in governing the sport."
Details about the integration have not been specified, but it is known that the two federations will begin working together on joint competitions around the world.
Choue (pictured left with Ri) said: "This is a big day for everyone who loves taekwondo. Despite our differences, both of us have the same goal, and today we took a meaningful first step toward that goal.
"The International Olympic Committee decided to add taekwondo to one of its main sports in 1994 [it will made its Olympics bow in 2000]. Next year will be the 25th anniversary of the achievement. It will be great to demonstrate our sport to other countries together. I am sure the IOC will welcome it."
Ri added: "By signing the agreement, we opened doors for a bright future for one taekwondo. We will make sure that we execute what we have agreed to make tangible changes."
While the IOC recognises World Taekwondo as the sole governing body for taekwondo, it has long encouraged talks with the ITF with a view to integration.
A thawing in relations between the World Taekwondo and the ITF began in 2014 when the two signed a memorandum of understanding to open up dialogue and increase collaboration.
As part of that agreement, athletes registered to either federation were free to take part in each other’s competitions.
In 2015, World Taekwondo invited Ri's predecessor Ung Chang and an ITF demonstration team to the World Taekwondo Championships in Russia, and two years later an ITF delegation visited South Korea for the first time in a decade when a demonstration team performed in the opening ceremony of the World Championships in the city of Muju.
World Taekwondo then sent its own delegation to the ITF’s world championships in Pyongyang in September last year.