Taekwondo is gaining popularity in France and will help attract more French tourists to Korea, said a French taekwondo master and honorary ambassador for Korean tourism.
Roger Piarulli, president of the Federation Francaise de Taekwondo et Disciplines Associees, was recently appointed an honorary ambassador to promote Korea’s tourism by the Korea Tourism Organization Tuesday.
“It is an honor, and I hope this will be a chance for me to promote Korean culture to France,” Piarulli, a sixth dan taekwondo master, said after the appointment ceremony in Seoul.
The 49-year-old former member of the French national team began doing the sport in 1970, when taekwondo was barely known in the European country, after he met a Vietnamese friend who practiced taekwondo.
“I fell in love with taekwondo. Since then, I have kept training it,” he said.
Piarulli said one of the merits of taekwondo is that those from all age groups can do it, adding the ages of his club members range from seven to 79.
Amid taekwondo spreading around the world, the martial art is gaining popularity in France. “There are more than 1,000 taekwondo clubs in France. The number of taekwondo trainees registered with the federation is 50,000, a rapid hike from 15,000 a decade ago. Also, 1,500 French people apply to Kukkiwon for grading tests every year,” the president said. Kukkuwon is the world taekwondo headquarters in southern Seoul.
Many taekwondo trainees visit Korea to learn the martial art and experience the culture of the country where taekwondo originated. Piarulli comes here two to three times per year with French martial artists. During this visit, he made a contract with KAL Hotel in Jeju Island to use the island as the training camp for the French taekwondo team in July before going to Beijing for the Olympic Games.
The French federation has also tried to promote taekwondo to more people, developing the “taekwondo dance” and holding an event for the disabled. “We designed the event for the handicapped to show that everyone can do taekwondo. We are encouraging the International Taekwondo Federation to adopt the sport as an event for the Paralympics,” Piarulli said.