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Ki-Nam Lee = Overcoming a Life-and-Death Situation and Throwing Himself in Taekwondo

By Lee Jong-Wook ljw714@kyongbuk.co.kr 등록일 2014년08월21일 22시06분  

Two players walked out of the Pohang Gymnasium on the first day of the World Taekwondo Hanmandang.

"It is too bad. We prepared so hard yet we were disqualified..."

Likely to be in his 40's, he shared his bitter feelings with a young fellow player as he reluctantly packed his bags.

He had applied to participate in the Hand Blade Power Break competition in the morning but was disqualified for tardiness.

He, however, did not stop smiling as he continued to express his bitterness.

It is because of his pride and his trusting students.

Ki-Name Lee(41) is a coach and an athlete, representing the Paju Taekwondo Association for the Disabled. His story is one of triumph after many years of hardship. He was a promising soccer player with a solid background in Taekwondo since the 4th grade. He was acknowledged in his school, which was renowned for soccer because of its alumnus, Bum-Geun Cha.

Soon, however, he met his first challenge. He injured his left knee which made it impossible for him to continue because he was a left-footed soccer player. He was forced to alter his life's path and decided to go to the military instead. After completing his military service, he went into show business and made appearances as a stunt man in remarkable television shows such as "Eyes of Dawn."

His happiness did not last long.

In his third year as a stunt man he severely burned his body all the way up to his navel during filming. He lost his left hand and half of his right hand, leading people to believe that it was a miracle that he was even alive.

The effects of that accident lasted a long time.

Having once been a promising soccer player to now being completely injured, except for his legs, he fell into a bottomless pit of despair thinking, "It would have been better if I had died."

"I spent nearly 2 years with miserable thoughts. I immersed myself in alcohol because I thought I would better off dead. Then one day, I saw a beam of hope."

He had seen a person who could not move his body at all. He then thought to himself, "I am much better off compared to him." He said he had started to look for a way to live his life in a new way and to stop being miserable.

In 2011, he started coaching for soccer teams in the Geumchon and Yeonpoong elementary schools in Paju. After almost 4 years of coaching, he retired as a respected teacher and manager of the Eunpoong elementary school's soccer team. Lee had fostered a few great players who now play in Women's U-17 and U-20. He is very proud of them.

He then decided to make a new start as a coach of a Taekwondo class in Paju.

Since he only held a first-degree black belt, he was not eligible to be licensed as a legal coach. In spite of that, he passionately pursued coaching, wishing to spread hope to the disabled.

"In the past, I have been given presidential commendations. Encouraging my students was the only reason for my participation as an athlete. It is disappointing that this goal was discouraged."

As a matter of fact, however, he had prepared very hard in preparation for this event.

He had practiced for the Hand Blade Power Break competition every week for the past year. Since there is no disparity between players, Lee's goal was to show the confident and respectable image of a player with disabilities in competition with ordinary players. "I could have easily broken 10 tiles," Lee added, mentioning his alternative goal which was to represent Korea in the elimination match for national athletes with disabilities in September. His eyes, as he shared his passion to expand the Taekwondo culture, burned with ambition.

Intern Reporters: Hyeonjin Kim and HeeRyang Kim

Supervised by: Richard M. Hamm, Professor of Handong University Language Institute and Min Hwang, Esq. Founder & Executive Director of Women's Hope Center Korea

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