ILF Extends Deepest Condolences Over the Passing of Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee, Father of American Taekwondo


The International Leadership Foundation (ILF) extends deepest condolences over the passing of Taekwondo Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee.

“Grandmaster Rhee was an absolute hero and role model for Americans, Korean-Americans, and the greater Asian Pacific American communities. We will remember his legacy and spirit and encourage young generations to follow in his footsteps. His way of life will be respected forever. Our prayers and thoughts are with his family, including Mrs. Rhee and Maryland’s Special Secretary, Jimmy Rhee,” shared ILF Executive Director Soo Kyung Koo.

Grandmaster Rhee, a 10th-degree black belt, devoted his life to popularizing the Korean martial art Taekwondo in the U.S.  He was one of the most well-recognized ambassadors of Korean and Asian culture. He established the first Taekwondo club in the U.S. Congress and taught more than 300 Congress members and previous U.S. Presidents the martial arts.

He was also well known as a friend of Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali.

He arrived from Korea in the 1950s and established martial arts studios in Washington, D.C. and other parts of the United States. Grandmaster Rhee created Martial Ballet, a martial arts form synchronized to music. It has been incorporated into his school’s curriculum and has been performed worldwide.

President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the National Council on Vocational Education from 1984 to 1988. He was later appointed as a Special Advisor to the President George H.W. Bush’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. In 2000, he was recognized as the only Korean-American on the list of most recognized American immigrants in U.S. history. Grandmaster Rhee was awarded the World Peace Maker Award in Moscow on April 26, 2007. He was also selected as the 1976 Martial Arts Man of the Century—U. S. Bicentennial Sports Award by Washington Touchdown Club in January 1976. ILF presented the Leadership Award to Grandmaster Rhee in 2015.

In 2003, Washington, DC Mayor declared June 28th Jhoon Rhee Day, in honor of the 41st anniversary of the establishment of the Jhoon Rhee Taekwondo School. The school was established on June 28th, 1962 at 2035 K Street NW Washington, DC. ILF mourns the death of such a great leader and advocate and believes that his legacy will live on.