Kukkiwon (국기원; 國技院), also known as World Taekwondo Headquarters, and home of the World Taekwondo Academy, is the official Taekwondo governing organization established by the South Korean government. It is supervised by the International Sports Division of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.
Kukkiwon is the center of Taekwondo instructor education, being the home of the World Taekwondo Academy, and issues official instructor and dan (black belt) and poom(junior black belt, for practitioners under 15 years of age) certifications. The organization's main aims are:
- "Help people to develop their spiritual and physical strength by spreading our cultural asset, Taekwondo."
- "Introducing Taekwondo's philosophy and skills in order to enhance the national prestige abroad."
According to the World Taekwondo Federation's (WTF) rules, Taekwondo competitors seeking entry into WTF-sanctioned events must hold black belt rank (whether poom or dan) from Kukkiwon. Kukkiwon has specified 21 articles in its regulations for poom and dan promotion tests. Article 2 of these regulations notes that they apply to all instructors and students enrolled as members of Member National Associations of the WTF. Article 4 stipulates that "WTF will support the Member National Associations to help perform the task of Dan promotion testing smoothly."
The organization has contributed significantly to the introduction of Taekwondo as a full medal sport in the Asian Games (from Seoul 1986) and the Olympic Games (from Sydney 2000). Despite these efforts, according to information published by the South Korean government, one of Taekwondo's largest problems from an organizational perspective is that "over 90% of the Taekwondo market operates separately from Kukkiwon, the World Taekwondo Headquarters" and there is a lack of communication between Taekwondo organizations and Kukkiwon.
In Kukkiwon's promotion test regulations, Article 8 lists the time and age limits associated with promotion between ranks; that is, the minimum time a candidate must have held a certain rank, and the minimum age a candidate must be, before becoming eligible to be tested for promotion to the next rank. For promotion to ranks up to and including 5th dan, there are different minimum age limits depending on whether the candidate had previously been promoted into poom ranks.
Time and age limits are not inflexible; for example, under Article 17, winners of Olympic Games, other world-level, and continental-level WTF championships may receive concessions. Article 18 allows for Taekwondo practitioners with non-Kukkiwon ranks to apply for Kukkiwon rank certification.