JINCHEON -- Korea aims to win nine gold medals in taekwondo at this year's Asian Games, hoping it can reaffirm its reputation as the birthplace of the martial art.
Korea will send 18 taekwondo practitioners -- 10 for sparring, also known as "kyorugi," and eight for poomsae -- to the Asian Games in Indonesia. All taekwondo events will be held at JCC Plenary Hall in Jakarta from Aug. 19-23.
Taekwondo has been a traditional gold mine for Korea at multisport events like the Asian Games and the Olympics. According to the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee, Korea is looking to grab nine gold medals in taekwondo at the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games, more than any other sport.
"We hope our taekwondo athletes can make big contributions to Korea's performance at the Asian Games," Korea Taekwondo Association President Choi Chang-shin said Wednesday. "If our athletes can perform like they did in their training, we'll do fine."
The KTA said it expects to collect six gold medals in sparring events.
"Our target is to win six gold medals in sparring, but we think we can grab up to seven," said Kim Jong-ki, head coach of the Korean taekwondo national team at a media event at the National Training Center in Jincheon, North Chungcheong Province. "We really worked hard this time, and we think it will pay off."
At the 2014 Asian Games, 16 gold medals were up for grabs -- all for sparring events -- but for this year's Asiad only 10 gold medals -- five each for the men's and the women's -- will be offered.
Poomsae, which refers to an attack-and-defense pattern in taekwondo, will make its Asian Games debut. Four gold medals are offered in poomsae at the 2018 Asian Games.
Kwak Taek-yong, a coach for the poomsae team, said sports fans will enjoy watching the newly introduced discipline at the Asian Games.
"I'm sure those who don't know taekwondo well can also feel the beautiful and powerful moves of taekwondo," he said. "We will try to win all the events."
The athletes said they're determined to meet the expectations of fans. And for some taekwondo practitioners, they want to offer more than a gold medal.
"I want to play a fierce game," said Lee Dae-hoon, who is a two-time defending Asian Games champion in the men's 63-kilogram division. "I want to show powerful and speedy kicks, so that those who don't know taekwondo can think the sport is interesting to watch."
Four Korean athletes will try to defend their Asian Games titles this time. Along with Lee, Kim Tae-hun in the men's under-58kg, Lee Ah-reum in the women's under-57kg and Lee Da-bin in the women's over-67kg all previously claimed Asiad gold medals in 2014.
For poomsae practitioners, competing at the Asian Games already gives them great excitement, as well as some pressure.
"I can't really feel the atmosphere of the Asian Games, since I have yet to enter the competition, but I know I'll have some pressure when I arrive in Indonesia," said Kwak Yeo-won, who will compete in the women's poomsae team event. "I try not to be too hyped up but to keep composure and handle the intensity."
The national taekwondo team will depart for Indonesia next Wednesday. (Yonhap)