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Hong Ki Kim

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August 2008

Setting the Olympic standard!

An interview with Hong Ki Kim, WTF’s referee committee chairman

The Olympic Referee Refresher Course for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games opened at the Beijing Shichahai Sports School in downtown Beijing, China onJuly 14, 2008, for a four-day run with the 29 international referees who will officiate in the Olympic taekwondo competitions on Aug. 20-23, 2008.hongkikim 1

Dr. Chungwon Choue, President of the World Taekwondo Federation, told the international referees in his welcoming speech at the opening ceremony that they are in elite company, but with such status comes the responsibility to ensure the ‘most exciting, most dynamic and fairest taekwondo competitions ever.’

This course, held for the first time outside Korea, will mainly focus on match management skills, thorough understanding of the WTF Competition Rules and gaining of experience in match simulation practices. The referees will visit the University of Science and Technology Beijing - the taekwondo venue for the taekwondo competitions at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

Dr. Choue is able to make this confident statement because he chose the right person for the job, Referee Committee Chairman Hong Ki Kim to set a uniform standard. But the going wasn’t always easy!

Master Kim is an International Referee. He was Secretary General of the Pan American Taekwondo Union for four years. He was a member of the WTF’s Games Committee for six years and attended various Olympic Games, Regional Olympic Programme Games, and nearly all the Taekwondo World Championships and World Cup Tournaments. Over the years he has gained considerable experience through participating as Head of Team or through providing technical assistance.

What steps have you taken to improve refereeing?

The keys to a successful competition refereeing, are 1) Selecting honest, impartial referees with considerable experience; 2) Constantly upgrading their education and training 3) Good allocation of referees in the ring

Today’s Taekwondo competition is both fast and dynamic. The very nature of our sport makes it difficult to referee so we have to keep up with and use technological advances to improve our referees’ skills.

Different people have different interpretations of the rules and in the past this led to many inconsistencies and confusion. My first goal was to unify the criteria and then implement a consistent application of the rules on a world-wide level. To this end, I taught referee courses in every Region - one voice to maintain this consistency

What difficulties have you faced?

hongkikim 3Some people criticised my work and made it more difficult. There are always those who are resistant to change or who want to be the main actor on the stage. However, I tried to concentrate just on my work and not be distracted by those people. Fortunately I have also had a lot of support.

What still needs to be done?

The technical and administrative sides of the Referee Department have to be completely separate. The administrative side should only provide logistical support. The Referee Committee must be independent and responsible for excellent results. The less interference from outside sources, the better those results will be.

The International Referee Committee Progress Report given to the Executive Council Meeting held in Vietnam on July 24th 2006 formalised our brief, and I quote:

The goals of this Committee are to comply with the Reform programme initiated by Dr. Choue as pertaining to referee matters, and work to enhance standards of refereeing and judging in TKD competition. The two main components are the education process and the selection process.

As regards the Education Process, we aim to change the course format; give referees more time to practise the decision- making process; change the course format; provide more realistic training; improve the materials used and set higher standards for referees.

As regards the Referee Selection Process, we aim to restructure the referee selection process and reduce bureaucracy.

Previously refresher courses were 18 hours long! Ten hours and 40 minutes were spent practising hand signals. Seven hours and 20 minutes were spent covering theory! Nowadays refresher courses are 25 hours long and divided as follows:

5 hours practising hand signals, 8 hours of theory, 3 hours practising scoring, 3 hours of competition simulation, 2 hours for group discussion and analysis and 2 hours of physical tests. We have implemented the use of audio-visual and interactive tools.
hongkikim 2

We still need to provide more practice in real-life competition situations and continue to improve by using new methods and technology. We should begin to see results in the near future.

Since my appointment in September last year we conducted seven refresher courses, including the one in Vietnam, in each of the five regions. Approximately 677 referees have taken the refresher course. We have also conducted three new referee courses, educating approximately 315 referees of whom about 83% have been selected as meeting our new higher standards.

We conducted a close evaluation and study of all referees who took refresher courses in order to establish standards for referee selection.

As regards the selection process, we requested federations to provide more detailed recommendations of referees with information on their experience and health.

Changes that have not yet occurred - but that need to be made - concern the duties of the administrative staff of the WTF Referee Department. They should provide administrative support only and should not be involved in the decision making process. This is the responsibility of the Referee Committee in conjunction with the Secretary General.

Once a decision is made, the Secretary General will instruct the Referee Department accordingly. This will avoid bureaucratic delays and make the whole process more efficient.

And have you achieved all the goals you hoped for?hongkikim 4

I regret that I have not! I was obliged to write a letter to the Secretary General in which I pointed out that none of my recommendations were being taken into account and I thought he should be made aware of this. I went on to say how, at the beginning of the new Presidency, we implemented a series of changes in the Referee Department and, as the President stated in his yearly report, there have been very positive results. Therefore I think it would be a big mistake to experiment with new methods on the advent of the Olympic Games.

The list of referees for the test event is not balanced. Three countries have more than one referee. The most experienced referees, who hold up well under pressure, have not yet been selected.

Excluding the World Qualification Event, we have referees who have participated in only one regional event. Incidentally, those who participated in more than one event have invested around $10,000. Surely it’s only fair that those who made this level of investment should be the ones to benefit.

More importantly, this is a TEST event that should be used for training the referees, the athletes and NTO’s. I feel this opportunity will be wasted by selecting different referees.

I concluded by saying that in my view, the Evaluation Committee of two professors is not expert in referee matters. I believe their recommendations are valuable but they should not make the final decision!

So how did you start off your Korean seminar to introduce the latest changes in the Competition Rules?

I asked the participants, ‘What are the three most important components of a sports event? They are the athletes, the spectators and the referees.’ I went on to explain that, ‘The next three days is about you, the referees. The job of a Taekwondo referee, by the very nature of the sport, is particularly difficult. We have to keep up with technological advances. Today’s competitors are continually evolving and improving. As referees we need to do the same. A competitor trains every day for years to reach a World Championship. How often do you practise refereeing? How many of you have had time to read and analysed the new Competition Rules?’

I went on to explain that we need to make the most of the three days of the seminar. I told them, ‘My job is to make you aware of the changes and to clarify any doubts that you may have about these or any other parts of the rules. Your job is to leave here with the knowledge and a clear understanding of the interpretation and application of the rules.’

It was important that they come to see our goal as being to unify all criteria so as to ensure that athletes compete on a level playing field and lose a match only because the opponent is better - and not because of a poor performance by the referee! An incorrect interpretation of the rules casts doubts on the integrity of a referee and puts a blemish on the referees, the WTF and the sport of taekwondo!

Wise words! And in conclusion?

Just let me say that Taekwondo needs top class referees to match our top class competitors!

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