Cindy Sin Sook Um, International Referee Taekwondo Instructor of USCR Taekwondo in Carrollton, Texas USA Poomsae Athelete, send a letter recently to all of the World Taekwondo council members, where she explains a problem that the community should know.
Dear Mr. World Taekwondo (WT) President Choue and WT Council Members,
I am writing this letter in hopes of acquiring your assistance with an issue I have experienced.
I would first like to deeply thank you all for the hard work you put into developing World Taekwondo. I initially was very hesitant to bring this issue to your attention as I know your time is very precious. However, the person with whom I am currently having this problem is at a much higher position in World Taekwondo compared to myself – a single Taekwondo instructor teaching in a suburban area. Thus, I humbly request the council’s assistance.
My name is Cindy Sin Sook Um. I am 49 years old and have been teaching Taekwondo with my husband, Gi Woo Um, since 1995. We currently own a Taekwondo school, USCR Taekwondo, in Carrollton, Texas.
I am writing this letter to address a situation that I experienced during the USAT (USA Taekwondo) Texas State Taekwondo Championships in March 16-17 hosted by the Texas State Taekwondo Association (TSTA). TSTA’s President is Inson Kim, also currently a World Taekwondo Council member. The incident occurred when I was working as a referee at this event. I am a USAT referee, certified as a WT Poomsae and Kyuroogi International Referee(IR). About 23 local and out of state IRs participated at this tournament. I, along with eight referees associated with my school, registered for this tournament because Texas Referee Chairman David Jones requested my assistance due to the shortage of referees. As the second largest state tournament of USAT, Texas is known for its large number of contestants. On the first day, I refereed for the Sports Poomsae division as a Poomsae IR. On the second day, I was assigned to a ring as a Sparring IR when the incident occurred.
As the ring was about to start the Kyuroogi game, Texas Referee Chair David Jones and Referee Advisory Richard Sacks had another referee replace me and then pulled me aside to the corner of the front event table. They told me that I could not referee wearing the IR referee uniform (blue jacket and white pants), which was the uniform worn by the other IRs at this tournament. I inquired as to the reason for this and they informed me that President Inson Kim brought up issues against my qualifications as an IR, so they had no choice but to comply. So, I requested a meeting with President Inson Kim.
During the meeting between President Inson Kim, Referee Advisory Richard Sacks, and myself, President Kim told me that my name was on the WT IR Suspend Request List. I responded that I have not received any notification from USAT or WT regarding any suspension, and that there were no problems with me participating at a Texas tournament with an International Referee qualification. However, President Kim did not accept my response and re-stated that because I was on the suspend request list at WT, I could not referee wearing the IR uniform.
At this point, Referee Advisory Richard Sacks made a call to USAT Director of Events Jeanna Salgado, explained my current situation to her, had her speak with President Kim, and it was clarified that there were no issues with me refereeing as a Sparring IR at the state tournament. President Kim left the meeting and unfortunately, the whole interaction left me very upset, causing me to shed tears at the event to my embarrassment. Unable to calm my turbulent emotions for a while, I considered returning home; however, I stayed and returned to my ring thinking of my fellow referees and students who I was responsible for. My husband, who was bedridden that day due to an illness, was unable to make it to the tournament.
President Inson Kim has had a resentful attitude towards us since 2006 when we opened our Texas Taekwondo school (B:US CR Taekwondo) in Carrollton. He believes that our school is too close to his (A: KIMS USA Taekwondo, Flower Mound) and that his students changed schools because of us. However, the distance between our schools is 5 miles and there are many martial art schools between us. (File 1) I believe this incident and our relationship are not totally unrelated.
My career as a USAT referee started in 2012, beginning at Level D2, D1, C2, C1, B2, B1, and then A2. I obtained my Poomsae IR qualification in Seattle, WA in 2016 and my Kyuroogi IR qualification in Acapulco, MX in 2017. However, USAT put my Kyuroogi IR status on “Hold” for USAT sanctioned events until March 13, 2018 because they stated that the period between my moving from Level A2 to IR status was too short. (File 2)
It has greatly damaged my dignity working as referee when President Inson Kim humiliated me in front of my fellow referees, students, and their parents. Of course, I understand that there can be many difficulties and stress factors associated with such large events like the state championships. Specifically, there were several incidents at this tournament. For example, TSTA did not prepare 2018 medals, so they gave past medals from 2012, 2014, and 2016 to all the winners, along with no certificates; TSTA did not notify the participants of this situation. The winners who do not receive certificates cannot prove their award from the 2018 State Championships. (File 3)
Recently, TSTA posted a notification on their website that winners can put in a “Medal Exchange Request” until March 31st. This proves that TSTA did not prepare the 2018 medals before the tournament, and by not notifying all the medal recipients of this exchange request notification, those who do not receive the news of this are at a loss. (File 4)
Another issue involved the Board Breaking division. Originally, it was released that the board size in the tournament was 8”X8”X1”. However, the board TSTA prepared was 10”X10”X1” on the event day. After many of instructors and parents made complaints regarding the board size, the boards were replaced with demo boards with two demo boards exchanged for one 1” board. Furthermore, before the demo boards were brought out, the original boards sold out; thus, the competitors who weren’t able to purchase any had to pay twice as much as two demo boards made up one competition qualified board. This results in an unfair competition as players used different kinds of boards within the same division. It was a very big issue amongst the parents, and I did my best to calm them so as to not create negative images towards Taekwondo.
As a World Taekwondo Council member and as the person in charge of Texas State Championships, I believe he poses as a bad influence to taekwondo in Texas as his recent behaviors have shown: undermining and humiliating IRs in front of many people and not properly preparing tournament essentials such as medals and breaking wood. Furthermore, the consequences of his actions include disappointing many of those who love taekwondo, especially the young students who, rather than getting to cherish their moments at tournaments, would remember only the hurt and unfairness they experienced.
One other incident I would like to mention occurred in February 17, 2018 between my husband, Master Gi Woo Um, and President Kim. At a AAU Taekwondo tournament held that day, in front of all the players, masters, referees, and parents, President Kim came on a personal itinerary to argue with my husband. President Kim questioned the validity of Master Um’s International Referee qualifications and accused Master Um of hosting a USAT referee seminar without his permission on December 17, 2017. I would like to note that receiving President Kim’s permission is not part of the procedure for sanctioning such an event. Due to such unprofessional behavior displayed by President Kim at an extremely inappropriate location and time, Master Um was unable to get back to his students’ tournament for two hours.
During his argument with Master Um, President Kim also stated that PATU President Jiho Choi will be fired from WT, a statement very unrelated to the situation at that time. President Kim’s outburst is likely caused by a misperception on his part that Master Um’s participation in a PATU-sponsored IR seminar back in 2017 and his attainment of IR status was possible because of a recommendation from President Choi. However, this is a clear misperception as Master Gi Woo Um attended this IR Seminar through a recommendation from USAT Executive Director Keith Ferguson and obtained his qualifications through the proper procedures.
Though it may seem like a trivial matter to some, taekwondo is a very special and important aspect of my life, which is why I felt it was necessary for me to send this letter to the Council.
I started learning taekwondo when I met my husband in Los Angeles. He had been working as a master at a local taekwondo studio in LA since 1994, and in 1995, he began his own studio, USCR Taekwondo. For 15 years, I have been working with him as an assistant taekwondo master, raising two kids and living a decent life.
When we moved to Texas, we were fortunate enough to receive positive reviews from the local area. Though we worked in a small neighborhood, we had a successful business.
Unfortunately, in 2011, I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, and began taking medications, receiving radiation treatment, and going through chemotherapy.
During this time when I was struggling through my treatments, exhaustion, and fatigue, my husband suggested participating in tournaments as a referee and Poomsae contestant in order to turn my attention elsewhere [from the pain].
As my treatments were not yet complete, and the chemotherapy along with the chest removal surgery caused me to be depressed and exhausted, physically and mentally, I struggled to immerse myself in these new endeavors. However, with the support and encouragement of my husband and children, I gained the strength to participate in the July 2012 Dallas National Tournament as a referee after receiving training.
Then, the next year in February 2013, I was able to place 2nd at the US Open poomsae division.
This new endeavor of being both a referee and a player gave me much strength, courage, and confidence when just a year ago, I was searching through the internet for “what percent survival rate” I had, “what can I eat”, “what can’t I eat”, “how others have gone through cancer”, etc. For myself, whose mind was so focused on questions such as these, taekwondo was a miracle for me.
My depression started going away and my body was quickly getting much better and stronger. My children, who saw that I was struggling and trying my best to beat this cancer, perhaps wanted to find ways to support me, and thus also began participating in various taekwondo tournaments, studied hard, and both got accepted into the United States Air Force Academy, where one is about to graduate and the other is going into his third year. My children’s efforts gave my husband and I such great joy and pride.
As for me, I continued my activities as a referee and player – I became an International Referee for sparring last year, and this year, had the honor of becoming a US Representative for Poomsae having placed 2nd at the Team Trials.
Participating as a referee and as a player gave me the confidence and the belief that no matter what the situation, as long as I don’t give up and challenge myself, I will be able to achieve as much as I’ve put effort into it. This also gave me the motivation two years ago to challenge myself and successfully pass the US Certified Tax Enrolled Agent exam.
My story has been featured in local newspapers, and I have received much words of encouragement and respect from my fellow neighbors, peers, referees and taekwondo masters.
I still cannot forget the emotional impression I got the first time I stepped onto a ring as a referee and the first time I stepped onto the podium to receive my medal around my neck. My daily life as a referee and player are, to me, something that gives me great hope and something I am truly grateful for.
I still do not know why or by whose inquiry my name is on the WT IR Suspend Request List, or if that information is even accurate. I cannot and do not understand how or why being a taekwondo referee, a miraculous and emotional activity for me, had to become an experience that was humiliating and caused me to shed tears in front of my students, parents, and other audience members.
I implore Mr. President Choue and the Council Members for your assistance.
My fellow taekwondo masters, referees, and even my school’s affiliates have misunderstood and are currently under the impression that because there is some issue with me, I am on the WT Suspend Request List.
Please judge the truth of this situation.
Please help me be proud and honorable once again as a referee and player amongst my students, parents, and fellow acquaintances.
I once again implore for your help and good judgement so that there will not be another case such as mine in the future ever again where the player or referee feels as if they have been wronged and treated unfairly.
I will issue all these matters based on the code of ethics and Bylaws of Dispute Resolution & Disciplinary Actions provided by WT.
I apologize for this long letter, and once again thank you and the council for reading my story until the end.
Cindy Sin Sook Um
This letter also states that Mr. Kim InSeon is spreading rumors that President Jiho Choi, WT Vice President will be fired from WT soon.
According to the PATU, this is clearly a Defamation of Character to Mr. Jiho Choi’s position.
It was known that the PATU, has lawyers studying the potential harm of these events against Master Choi, and PATU.