Athletes Need To Be Intellectuals In Their Field Chancellor Korea National Sport University

Athletes Need To Be Intellectuals In Their Field Chancellor Korea National Sport University

Ahn Yong Gyu, Chancellor, Korea National Sport University, shares South Korea’s sports ethos and the country’s emphasis on holistic sports education

In the neighbourhood of Bangi-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul lies Korea National Sport University (KNSU) which was established in 1976. The only national sports university of South Korea has seen its students obtain a total of 126 Olympic medals so far.

KNSU has two main objectives as a higher education institute in the field of sports. One is to empower players and athletes through sports education and training. The other is to provide training to prospective sports educators, teachers and coaches, offering degree programmes from undergraduate to doctoral level.

Leading this holistic higher education institute is Ahn Yong Gyu, the Chancellor of KNSU. After doing his doctoral in the same field, Yong Gyu wants to share the message that sports education is more than just physical training. “I learnt that sports are more than just a physical activity, it is a mental and spiritual learning experience,” shares the Chancellor. This is especially true for South Korea’s most globally recognised martial art, Taekwondo.

Popularity of Taekwondo

Practised in 208 countries, Taekwondo is not only an exercise in skill-building but also requires discipline and focus. “This is the reason I also want to continue to focus on Taekwondo, it is a martial art where the right attitude, right manner and discipline are more important than physical training,” explains Yong Gyu. Along with building confidence, Taekwondo is a great asset for self-defence. 

“In taekwondo, there are many complex skills, for people who do not naturally have a lot of strength and physical power, through the skills and techniques they can overpower potential attackers to better defend themselves.” Yong Gyu adds that this can be great to empower women and help them feel safe. 

A three-day Taekwondo Championship was organised at the IG Stadium in New Delhi, where winners were also awarded the opportunity to visit the sports university in South Korea and participate in a three-week education and training programme. Opening doors to future opportunities for exchange programmes between the two countries and expanding the field of sports education and training on a national level.

India-Korea Sports Exchange

In a recent visit to India, the Chancellor participated in the 50-year anniversary celebration of India-Korea diplomatic relationships and signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Miranda House, University of Delhi and CMR University to explore deeper education cooperation, especially around sports education. 

“I was very impressed by the awareness that leaders here in India have about our institute (KNSU) and their interest in physical education on a higher education level,” said Chancellor Yong Gyu.

Revamping Sports Education

For the Chancellor of KNSU, the success of KNSU lies in their holistic education approach. The institute ensures that all students are engaged on a physical and mental level. This means all students must attend theory courses, develop their minds and build knowledge in sports. “That way it is not just performance, but also intellectual growth. Athletes need to be intellectuals in their field,” states Yong Gyu. This mindset needs to be developed in institutes. It is a matter of education, not just producing athletes like a “machine”.

For Indian institutes, Yong Gyu advises focusing on creating the right environment for learning and training. As cities can be loud and full of distraction, sports education must take place in an environment that allows the student to focus on themselves, their internal and external growth.

Group Sports from India

As part of the cultural exchange carried out between India and Korea, Yong Gyu sees potential in Field Hockey, Archery and Badminton. While KNSU has been successful in creating a proper structure for sports education, producing many Olympians in the process, the Chancellor says, “We focus on individual sports, not so much on group sports. That is why we are looking at expanding field hockey and handball in our university.” This is an area where India can be an asset to the well-established university. These sports are also popular among students in Korea and there is potential for exchange on that front.

Speaking on the exchange, Yong Gyu surmises that “once the standard of living starts to go up and people have more wealth, they develop more interest in physical education and sports”.

He concludes, “in Korea students who do well academically are also showing an increasing interest in studying sports. I think a similar situation is happening in India.”

Physical training, along with knowledge exchange are the focus areas of the university collaborations. However, Chancellor Yong Gyu believes that research in the science of sports as well as the role of technology in this field are areas for potential future collaborations between the two countries.

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