Lee Dong Seop, president of Kukkiwon, the world Taekwondo headquarters in South Korea, traveled to the Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida on Monday to award Donald Trump with an honorary ninth-degree black belt.

Receiving the honorary ninth dan black belt, the former President dressed in the traditional dobok uniform worn by practitioners of Korean martial arts. Kukkiwon, the world Taekwondo headquarters, posted the photos with disclaimers that the honorary title did not represent “political issues” of any kind.

“I heard that Donald Trump is highly interested in Taekwondo,” said Lee Dong Seop, who revealed that an unnamed South Korean resident in the United States set up the meeting.

Other world leaders, such as Kim Jong-Un in North Korea and Vladimir Putin in Russia, have also received honorary martial arts degrees as well.

Lee Dong Seop, President of Kikkiwon Taekwondo, posing with former-president Donald Trump
Lee Dong Seop, President of Kikkiwon Taekwondo, posing with former-president Donald Trump. Photo Credit: Facebook

Many critics online were wondering why the event took place, considering the fact that Donald Trump has never practiced Taekwondo, or any form of martial arts. Putin, who also has an honorary ninth-degree black belt, has also never practiced Taekwondo, but he does have a black belt in judo. He was the first world leader to receive the degree when he visited Seoul back in 2013.

After posing for a photo, Donald Trump allegedly showed Kukkiwon President Lee Dong Seop a photo of himself shaking hands with Kim Jong-Un at the demilitarized zone in 2019. He also showed Lee Dong Seop a photo of him shaking hands with Queen Elizabeth II in the UK.

“It is my pleasure and honor to receive this honorary certificate,” Donald Trump said. “Taekwondo is a great martial art for protecting oneself in these times (when COVID-19 prevails).”

Korean newspaper Dong-A-Ilbo also posted the photos, adding that Donald Trump told them that he would wear the dobok in Congress if he should ever find his way back to the White House. He also invited the Kukkiwon Taekwondo team to the United States for a demonstration.

“So Trump and Putin get free 9th dan… are they just giving away to people with money?” one commenter wrote on Kukkiwon’s Facebook post of the event. “How about [you] give these honors to Taekwondo masters, gm and teachers who have actually shared [Taekwondo] knowledge their entire lives. Many seventh and eighth-degree black belts who deserve these honors instead of these two from our supposed Taekwondo headquarters.”

“Kukkiwon, why are you doing this?” another commenter asked. “For those of us who have Taekwondo as our livelihood and passion, this is an attack on our integrity. Why should Kukkiwon get involved in politics? Giving honors to politicians like Putin and Trump has nothing to do with the values I want to represent.”

Some critics even said that they were going to “renounce my black belt,” arguing that Lee Dong Seop “awarded a belt to someone who undermines the spirit of Taekwondo.”

Other martial arts celebrities in the United States, such as Chuck Norris, have only achieved an eighth-degree black belt in Taekwondo. Norris, however, was a practicing martial artist, and even fought Bruce Lee on screen in his film The Way of the Dragon. According to experts, a ninth-degree black belt is the highest rank a practicing martial artist can achieve.

“Some people dedicate the lager part of their lives to understand, practice and spread the art of Taekwondo,” one critic explained. “It is attained through hard training of mind and body, often with big sacrifice.”

“Giving the highest degree that can only be reached by those who never give up and never take short cuts to someone who had never ever worn a dobok and sweated is a big insult to the grand masters and shows bad judgement of those who are the leaders,” the commenter continued. “Such a shame.”