The earliest records of Taekwondo practice date back to about 50 B.C. in Korea. Tae Kyon is considered the earliest known form of Taekwondo. Paintings from this time period have been found on the ceiling show unarmed people using techniques that are very similar to the ones used by Taekwondo today. During the Silla dynasty Taek Kyon was mostly used as a sport and recreational activity. Taek Kyon's name was changed to Subak and the focus of the art was changed during the Koryo dynasty from a system that promotes fitness to primarily a fighting art. During the second half of the Yi dynasty, political conflicts and the choice to use debate instead of military action almost led to the extinction of Subak.
In 1909 the Japanese invaded Korea and occupied the country for 36 years. To control Korea's patriotism, the Japanese banned the practice of all military arts, Korean language and even burned all books written in Korea. This ban was responsible for renewed interest in Subak. Many Koreans organized themselves into underground groups and practiced the martial arts in remote Buddhist temples. In 1943 Judo, Karate and Kung-fu were officially introduced to the Korean residents and the martial arts regained popularity. The first Taekwondo school (Kwan) was started in Yong Chun, Seoul, Korea in 1945. Many different schools were opened from 1945 and each school claimed to teach traditional Korean martial art, but each school emphasized a different aspect of Subak.
After witnessing a martial arts demonstration by the military in 1952, South Korean President Syngman Rhee urged that the martial arts styles of the kwans be merged. Beginning in 1955 the leaders of the kwans began discussing in earnest the possibility of creating a unified style of Korean martial arts. The name Tae Soo Do was used to describe this unified style. Choi Hong Hi advocated the use of the name Tae Kwon Do. In 1959 the Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA) was established to facilitate the unification of Korean martial arts. In 1966, Choi broke with the KTA to establish the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) - a separate governing body and continued to function as an independent federation.
In 1973 the South Korean government's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism withdrew its support for the ITF and established the Kukkiwon as the new national academy for taekwondo. In the same year the KTA and Kukkiwon supported the establishment of the World Taekwondo Federation (now World Taekwondo), which coincided with the first World Taekwondo Championships that were held in Seoul, Korea. The WTF has since made a major effort to standardize tournament rules and organize world class competitions. The IOC recognized and admitted the WTF in 1980. In 1982 the IOC designated Taekwondo as an official demonstration sport for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea, and became an official medal event at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia.