CHEONGJU, South Korea, Aug. 28 (Yonhap) -- Ahead of Friday's opening of the 2019 Chungju World Martial Arts Masterships in Chungju, a city in the central South Korean province of North Chungcheong, the provincial government aims to foster the competition into a martial arts Olympics featuring a mix of martial arts and cultures from countries around the world.
The 2019 Chungju World Martial Arts Masterships, the world's only international martial arts championships, is the second competition to be held in North Chungcheong Province, after the first event was hosted by Cheongju, the capital of the province, about 140 kilometers south of Seoul, in August 2016. This year's competition in Chungju, about 150 km southeast of Seoul, will continue through Sept. 6 under the slogan "Beyond the Times, Bridge the World."
North Chungcheong is said to be a natural birthplace of the world martial arts competition, as the region is associated with various Korean traditional martial arts and has vast relevant resources.
Chungju is a mecca of "taekkyeon," which is one of Korea's representative traditional martial arts, along with taekwondo. The Korea Taekkyeon Association is located in Chungju.
The World Martial Arts Masterships also originated from Chungju.
International attention began to escalate for martial arts of various countries in 1997, when the UNESCO designated traditional martial arts as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Responding to the global attention, the municipality launched the Chungju Martial Arts Festival in 1998. This year, the 19th martial arts festival will take place alongside the Chungju World Martial Arts Masterships.
The first Chungju Martial Arts Festival was centered on demonstrations. After 2000, competitive events were added, resulting in a spike in participation numbers. Previously unfamiliar martial arts, such as India's Kalari, Mongolia's Bokh and the Philippines' Arnis, were also introduced to South Koreans through the festival.
In October 2002, about 40 countries established the World Martial Arts Union, or WoMAU, in a bid to promote human and material exchanges among international martial arts groups. The WoMAU, headquartered in Chungju, is a formal non-governmental organization authorized by the UNESCO.
In 2008, the South Korean government enacted the Promotion of Traditional Martial Arts Act. In November 2011, taekkyeon was placed on the list of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, becoming the world's first martial arts to be recognized by the United Nations body. The UNESCO designation also set the stage for North Chungcheong's renaissance as a mecca of martial arts.
Then the 2016 Cheongju World Martial Arts Masterships again brought North Chungcheong to the attention of the world's martial artists. In the midst of the 2016 competition, the International Centre of Martial Arts for Youth Development and Engagement (ICM), an international organization under UNESCO, was established in Chungju. The ICM plays a role in promoting the global spread of traditional martial arts and supporting academic approaches to martial arts.
The World Martial Arts Masterships Committee (WMC), headquartered in Cheongju, has also been strengthening its status as an international organization. Just as the International Olympic Committee organizes the Olympic Games, the WMC is the governing body of the World Martial Arts Masterships and selects its host city every four years after receiving bids from countries. It also supports the organization, development and coordination of various martial arts competitions. Late last year, the first overseas National Martial Arts Committee (NMC) was launched in Indonesia. The WMC plans to set up other NMCs in Southeast Asia, including India, Nepal and Malaysia, Europe and the United States in the future.
"We'll make all possible efforts to turn North Chungcheong into an international mecca of martial arts by successfully hosting the 2019 Chungju World Martial Arts Masterships," an official at the provincial government said.
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