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US Taekwondo Athletes Plan Korean DMZ Walk

FILE - Korean-American taekwondo grandmaster Jung Woo-jin, center, shakes hands with North Korean border soldiers as he offers a peace gesture of taekwondo "dobok" robes on the North Korean side of the DMZ line outside Panmunjom, May 19, 2006.

A group of U.S. taekwondo practitioners is planning to walk across the demilitarized zone that divides the Korean peninsula.

Jung Woo-jin, a Korean-American taekwondo grandmaster who is publisher of Taekwondo Times, told the VOA Korean service he is organizing the event to promote inter-Korean exchanges through the traditional martial art.

Jung traveled to Pyongyang last week to meet with high-level taekwondo officials, including Chang Ung, the head of the International Taekwondo Federation, a North Korea-led international body. Chang also represents Pyongyang on the International Olympic Committee.

“We had some serious discussions about possible exchanges between taekwondo athletes in North Korea and elsewhere, especially between the two Koreas,” said Jung during a telephone interview Monday.

He said international taekwondo masters, mostly from the U.S., plan to visit the North and hope to cross from the North to the South.

“We plan on sharing different techniques with North Korean athletes and hold a seminar in Pyongyang,” said Jung.

Jung said the North fully supported the plan, adding he was hopeful the South would allow the walk to take place.

“North Korean authorities promised to allow the walk, and I am expecting [a] positive response from the South as well,” he said.

On Tuesday, a South Korean official told the VOA Korean service the government would deliberate on the matter after it received a request.

Jung said he was also exploring the possibility of inviting a North Korean taekwondo demonstration team to the U.S. this year.

Jung hosted a series of North Korean taekwondo performances in the U.S. in 2007 and 2011.

Jee Abbey Lee from Washington and Eunjee Kim from Seoul contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.