The following paper was originally published in 1988. Since that time, much information has come available that may render certain information in this paper obsolete. The author has attempted to re-edit the paper for presentation here.

Organizational Power within the Moo Duk Kwan

Sources of Power, Conflict, and Suggestions Edited Edition c1998 By John Hancock

Martial arts practice is a growing business in the United States today. Relatively unknown 100 years ago, many of the oriental disciplines have today grown into international organizations for dispersement and development of their respective arts. The Korean organization known as the Moo Duk Kwan (Martial Virtue Institute) is an example of such organizations. The Moo Duk Kwan is a martial art organization whose primary purpose is the dissemination of information and instruction in the martial art style known as Tang Soo Do (sometimes referred to as Korean karate). As the organization has grown, since its inception in 1945, it has incurred the stresses of establishing and managing the flow of power within its structure. As such, breakdowns have occurred which have led to factions separating from the original main body of the organization. This paper will examine the structure and sources of power within the Moo Duk Kwan, issues of conflict within the organization which are related to power, and offer suggestions to Facilitate the reclamation of lost power (as well as the reclaiming of lost members and revenue).


The following terms and abbreviations have been defined in order to aid the reader's comprehension.

Dan - A "Dan" is a degree of rank. The term is used exclusively to denote advanced practitioners of martial arts. The common word for Dan in America is "Black Belt" referring to the color of the belt that a Dan wears to denote rank and stature.

Dojang - This is the Hangul (Korean language) term for the place where a student and/or instructor of martial arts practices. Today the term dojang is used not only to refer to the entire building, but to an individual business, school, and/or office.

Karate - Japanese term referring to the arts of self defense using bare hands. Prior to 1925, the characters used to write "karate" literally referred to the fighting arts of China. In Korea, the characters are pronounced as Tang Soo Do.

Moo Duk Kwan (MDK) - Hangul for Martial virtue Institute.

Tang Soo Do (TSD) - This is the Hangul for "karate". The words literally mean way of the Chinese hand.

A History of the Moo Duk Kwan

To understand what the MDK is and how it functions, one must have a knowledge of how it came about and where it has been, Much of the history of the Moo Duk Kwan is the history of its founder, Hwang Kee. To begin to understand the MDK, one must go back to 1914, in Korea. This was the year of Hwang Kee's birth. Korea, at this time, was under the rule of Japan. The Japanese were attempting to eradicate all facets of Korean culture in favor of their transplanted Japanese culture. As a Korean youth growing up in this time period (the Japanese ruled Korea from 1904 to 1945), Mr. Hwang was exposed to the martial arts of his nation as well as those of the Japanese. In 1935, Mr. Hwang left Korea via his job as a member of a survey crew working for the Railroad. Leaving his home behind, Hwang journied into the depths of Manchuria and Eastern China. He remained there until 1937. While in China, Hwang Kee studied Tai Chi Chuan under Master Yang, one of the Famous Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan Family.

In 1945, Korea gained its independence from Japan (due to the Japanese surrender to the United States at the end of WWII). Mr. Hwang opened his first public martial arts school. He called this school the Moo Duk Kwan (or Martial Virtue Institute).

By 1953, Mr. Hwang's MDK had grown considerably. In order to establish control over the various dojang, Mr. Hwang formed the Dae Han Tang Soo Do Hoi (the Greater Korean Chinese Hand Way Association) (Chun, 1975). Complications arose as the Korean government became involved in theorganization of martial art schools. In 1955, the government ordered the dissolving of all Kwans (schools)and their reorganization under the National Training Center (guk Ki Won). Mr. Hwang refused to disband his organization and turn it over to the government control. Pressure from the government led to a faction of high rating members of the MDK to break away and form associations with the Kuk Ki Won in 1960. This faction eventually became known as Moo Duk Kwan Tae Kwon Do (Chan, 1975).

When thisseparation occurred, Mr. Hwang liquidated his Korean TSD Association and reformed under the title of the Tae Han Soo Bahk Do Hoi, Moo Duk Mwan (Greater Korean Hand Strike Way Association of the Martial Virtue institute). The Korean Soo Bahk Do association MDK is the controlling organization of MDKTSD dogang to this day.

Organizational Structure of the Moo Duk Kwan

The Basic Organizational structure of the MDK is based, for the most part, on a military hierarchy. Today the MDK is faced with portraying a dual role. On one side being a profitable business whose goal is the selling of a service (i.e. instruction In TSD), and of a fraternal organization whose goal is fostering Ideologies (i.e. the philosophy and way of life of the gentlemen warrior). This is accomplished by use of two distinct authority structures that exist alongside one another (although, not always without conflict).

Rank Structure

All members of the MDK fall somewhere within a scale of ranks which are basically a parallel of militaryrank. This scale is divided in half, much the same as our own armed forces rank structure, with "Gup" constituting the lower half, and "Dan" the upper half. Colored belts are used to designate rank. Gup are paralleled with enlisted and non-commissioned officer ranks, and Dan with commissioned officer ranks. Additionally, the ranks are equilivent with educational levels. For a more detailed comparison refer to theTable below.

Rank     -----   Color Belt      -----   Military Equivalent     ------      Educational Equivalent

10th Gup  .....       White      ...........              Recruit              ............             Elementary
9th Gup
    ....       Yellow      ..........               Private             ............             Elementary
8th Gup
    ....       Orange        .....            Private 1st Class      .......              Elementary
7th Gup   ..... Orange,1 Stripe ....               Corporal             ...........              Elementary
6th Gup   ....        Green       ...........           Sergeant            ...........              Junior High
5th Gup   .... .Green,1 Stripe  .........         Staff Sergeant         ........              Junior High
4th Gup   ......Green,2 Stripes...........  Sergeant 1st Class    .........              Junior High
3rd Gup   .....         Red          ..........       Master Sergeant       .......                High School
2nd Gup  ....... Red, 1 Stripe    .........        First Sergeant         ........               High School
1st Gup  .........Red, 2 Stripes   ..........     Sergeant Major        .......                High School
1st Dan  ....... ..Midnight Blue   ..........  Second Lieutenant     ..........                  B.S.
2nd Dan   ......  Midnight Blue    ...          First Lieutenant       ..........                   B.S.
              ............2 Stripes.................
3rd Dan    .....  Midnight Blue     ......             Captain          ................                B.S.
              ............3 Stripes.................
4th Dan   ........Midnight Blue      .......             Major             .................              M.S.
  center stripe..........
5th Dan   ....... Midnight Blue     ..........   .Lieutenant Colonel    .........                 M.S. center stripe............
6th Dan    ....   Midnight Blue       ......            Colonel             ................             M.S. center stripe............
7th Dan   ....    Midnight Blue       .......     Brigadier General     .........                  M.S. center stripe.............
8th Dan ........  Midnight Blue       .....         Major General         ..........                Ph.D. center stripe.............
9th Dan  .....    Midnight Blue      ...... .     Lieutenant General    ........                 Ph.D.
 center stripe.............
10th Dan  .....  Midnight Blue      .....               General            ..............             Ph.D.

Management Structure

The MDK is managed on three levels in the United States. At the top is the Federation Headquarters (Fed Hd Qtrs) which is headed by the Technical Advisor and operated by a 28 member Board of Directors. The Technical Advisor and 8 members of the Board of Directors are appointee directly by MDK in Korea. The remaining 22 members of the board are determined by a general election conducted by the United States Tang Soo Do Federation (USTSDMDK Fed). The Fed Hd Qtrs is responsible to report to the Inter- national Branch of the MDK in Korea (the governing body of the MDK in Korea is known as the "Dae Han Soo Bahk Do Hoi" or Greater Korean Hand Strike Way Association). Next, in line from top to bottom, are the Regional Headquarters of which there are nine. These are normally headed by a member of the Board of Directors. At the bottom are the various individual dojang which are operated by a certified "Kyosa" or "Sabom" (USTSBMBK Fed, 1976). It should be noted that there are many individual dojangs that are operated by uncertified instructors (some even below Dan rank), however, these are not officially recognized by the UTSDMDK Federation.

Sources of Power in the Moo Duk Kwan

Identifying sources of power in an organization can be attacked from two perspectives: Identifying the kindof power used, and identifying the way power is used. A variety of research on sources of power has been conducted (French & Raven, 1959; Hardy, 1985; Kanter, 1979; Kotter, 1977; McClelland & Burnham, 1976). For purposes of this paper, sources of power will be first identified by the way the power is used and then by the kind of power used. Identifying sources of power by use falls into two categories:
Recognized Power (RP), or power which is easily and readily acknowledged and accepted; and Subliminal Power (SP), or power that functions in unobtrusive ways.

Recognized Power

RP in the MDK stems from two sources: Power that comes with one's position in the organization, and power that comes with one's level of technical expertise or skill. Positional power is based on the authority granted by virtue of the position held, or "...those elements that automatically come with a managerial job - perhaps a title, an office, a budget, the right to make certain decisions, a set of subordinates, a reporting relationship, and so on" (Kotter, 1977, p. 132). In the MDK, one's positional power is determined by one's rank and the position held In the management structure. Expertise power comes as a result of one's demonstrated and proven technical skill. This is to say, expertise is established".. .through visible achievement. The larger the achievement and the more visible it is, the more power the manager tends to develop" (Kotter, 1977, p, 130). Rank, executive position, and skill combine to form the individual's total RP in the MDM.

Subliminal Power

SP, as stated previously, is power that operates- in unobtrusive ways. Just because it does not readily lend itself to outward and visible expressions, does not necessarily mean that such power is inconsequential (Hafdy,1985). Subliminal farms of power in the MDK are: Information power; obligatory power; and referent power. With regard to information power, Kotter (1977) defines this as a way to form perceived dependence (p. 131). The more information one has, of the more access one possesses to needed information, and the more control one has over dissemination of information, tends to increase an individual's power in the organization. In the MDK, information power is very effective with regard to subordinates or those of lesser rank. A sense of obligation can be created through the use of one's Information power. However, as the MDK is based on the instruction of a martial art, and the martial art is tied closely to the culture of its country of origin (i.e. Korea), then the concepts of obligation of student to mentor are carried over into the organizational manage ment. In Korea, there is a strong sense of obligation with regard to all interpersonal relationships. This is referred to in Korea as "kibun". No exact English equivalent of this word exists. While this term is often translated as "face" it has more to do with a person's mood. The crux of the concept is to never disturb the mood of another, and especially not a superior's kibun. Another way of describing kibun is to say; "It's better to feel right than to be right. " Kibun is often used by members of the MDK to foster and support a sense of obligation by subordinates to superiors, juniors to superiors in rank, and students to teachers. This is what is meant by "obligatory power." Obligation is used from the top down. Referent power is a "...method by which managers gain fostering others' unconscious identification with them or with the ideas they "stand for. " These individuals are often referred to as "charasmatic leaders" (Kotter, 1977, p. 131) Unlike obligation power, referent power is bi-directional. When referent power is used from the top down, the above definition applies. When used from the bottom up, it is power that stems from "...relatively close contact with sponsors (higher-level people who confer approval, prestige, or basking)" (Kanter, 1979, p. 66). In the MDK, the maximum referent power is achieved by being associated with the organizational founder, Hwang Kee. If a blood relationship can be traced to the founder, all the better, Therefore, in the MDK he overall maximum SP can be determined by the combination of Information power (access and dissemination of information); obligatory power (amount of obligation felt by subordinates of inferior ranks), which relates to Korean cultural rules of "kibun" and referent power (identification with, and relationship to, the founder). When combined with ones RP (rank, executive position, and expertise) an individual's total power within the grand organizational structure of the MDK Is formed.

Issues of Conflict Within the MDK Relating to Power

Historically, the MDK has had its share of problems. In the 1960's, the World Tae Kwon Do Federation(WTF), with backing from the Korean government, conducted a take-over of all martial art organizations in Korea. This take-over was only partially successful with regard to the MDK. However, it did cause a major section of the MDK to break apart and align itself with the WTF. In this case, it was external forces which forced a separation to occur. In the United States, many times leaders in the MDK have broken away from the main body. Several organizations have developed from these separations to become strong rivals of the USTSDMDK Fed. A multitude of independent dojangs have arisen which work outside the control of the MDK. It must be noted that all of these factions are set up to propagate the study, practice and development of Tang Soo Do. The reasons for separating from the MDK stem mostly from an unwillingness to work through the USTSDMDK Fed., and from power conflicts in the MDK itself. Many issues, for which this factioning is a result, are, as yet, unresolved today. The following issues cited were derived from phone interviews with individuals who are all former instructors and/or executives of the MDK or USTSDMDK Fed. All are above the rank of 4th Dan, and are all now residing within the United States. Although it would give more validity to cite specific individuals or organizations, or their statements, this cannot be done. In order to protect the sources from litigation, no names or other identification can be listed. Such is the nature of the information gathered during the course of research for this book. The researcher was often required to make a promise not to identify the source nor print the information given in order to get the source to respond to interview. Therefore, the following issues are derived from a number of incidents, issues and comments reported to the researcher during interview. With this understanding, the following issues are listed:

1. Limited access to information. In 1978, Hwang Kee (founder of the MDK) published his English text entitled, Tang Soo Do (Soo Bahk Do). In the preface he stated, "This is the first book of a series. Books Two, Three, Four, and Five will be published in the near future. " The additional volumes, however, have never appeared (Volume 2 was published in 1992). Some sources claim the material has been ready for print for some time, yet the MDK has not (or will not) release it. .For whatever reason, it has been nearly ten years since the MDK has published any information other than newsletters and short training guidelines. Many TSD practitioners feel that the MDK has been remiss in the dis- semination of information, and as a result, have ceased to support or work with the organization. Because of a perception that information power is being abused, breakdowns in communications have occurred and resulted in a loss of manpower far the MDK. Author's Note: In 1993 the MDK did finally publish a second volume pertaining to advanced forms. In 1995, the MDK finally published The History of Moo Duk Kwan which detailed the life of founder Hwang Kee. These text can be obtained through the USMDKSBD Fed. and certain booksellers.

2. Non-acceptance of Korean cultural concepts of authenticity of authority. Oriental culture has always fostered an attitude that one never questions a superior. This concept is overtly propagated in the MDK. Hwang (1978) makes the following statement: "Obey the word of instructors or seniors without question" (p. 29). In a study conducted involving karate organizations, it was noted that "...members of American karate organizations did not internalize the underlying philosophical tenents...which govern the martial arts in the Orient. American karate students had difficulty in accepting the concept that the instructor has absolute power and knowledge and that the student must at all times be subserviant to the instructor. " They go on to say, "Both American students and instructors did not adhere to the belief that karate should be learned...under the tutelage of a stern disciplinarian who maintains authority and distance" (p. 225). Many of those interviewed stated that the only reason many of Hwang Kee's decisions, or those of his family members, are carried out, is only because of the Korean concepts of social etiquette and station. Many individuals have found this conflict between Eastern and Western attitudes intolerable. Several practitioners interviewed stated that this concept fosters the abuse of obligatory power within the MDK, and that this power is abused. With regard to TSD pracitioners who have separated from the MDK, it may best sum up their point as follows: "Trying to control others solely by directing them and first, because managers are always dependent on some people over whom they have no formal authority, and second, because virtually no one in modern organizations will passively accept and completely obey a constant stream of orders from someone just because he or she is the "boss. " The Oriental attitude toward authority has created severe tensions in America with regard to both recognized and subliminal power in the MDK.

3. Accusations of favoritism on the part of Hwang Kee with regard to placing his own blood relatives in executive positions within the MDK. It should be noted here, that during the course of the interview conducted, no one felt rank had ever been unjustly awarded to any of Mr. Hwang's family members. All sources were concommitant in the feeling that expertise power possessed by Mr. Hwang, and those members of his family within the MDK, is one of the highest. However, the contention is made that Mr. Hwang has been partial toward his own decendants with regard to appoint- ments to executive positions within the organization. Many TSD practitioners feel appointments to key positions have been made unjustly, ignoring members who have (or had) equal of higher rank, expertise, and service, in favor of family members who now hold key positions. This has created major separations and conflicts between Mr. Hwang (and his relatives) and many former executives of the MDK. Additionally, the feeling that favoritism has existed, and does still exist, has led to a diminishment of respect on the part of TSD practitioners with regard to Mr. Hwang and the MDK. The issue has led to an eating away of all aspects of power within the organization.

These three issues are the focal points of discussions among a majority of the TSD practitioners today. Their impact on the MDK has long gone unaddressed. To ignore them is to give them staggering importance in terms of the long reaching objectives of the MDK and all practitioners of TSD.

Suggestions to the MDK Toward Resolving Issues

The three issues cited above have cost the MDK considerable loss in organizational powers. Personal and positional powers have been adversely affected because of them. The total manpower of the organization has suffered staggering blows in the past and continues to threaten present manpower. As manpower (or membership) translates into dollars, it is only logical to assume the impact these issues have had, and continue to have, on organizational revenues. These issues appear to be ignored by the MDK. This is non-sensible with regard to the base purpose of the organization and its continued future. The following suggestions are offered to resolve these issues and thereby regain power for the organization:

1. Immediately publish a biography of the founder's life, As Mr. Hwang's personal history is so closely ties to the discipline of TSD and the existance of the MDK, and as his personal attitudes and values have greatly affected policy within the organization, this would put to rest many gnawing questions about the source of elements within the art and the development of both the system (TSD) and the MDK.

2. Authenticate information and acknowledge sources. Many components of TSD are under scrutiny these days. Ne longer will students passively accept tradition as a reason for methods or components, nor will true martial artists tolerate propagandist answers to questions in the face of adverse documentation of facts. TSD practitioners in America are saying, "Prove what you say, and give credit where credit's due!"

3. Change the attitude concerning assumed acceptance of authenticity and authority. Managers and executives in the MDK need to realize that they cannot continue to rely on social customs (i.e. kibun) to back up their authority. Egotism and authoritarianism are counter-productive in both short and long term goals. The "...profile of the very best managers..." includes "...a greater emotional maturity, where there is little egotism, and a democratic, coaching managerial style."

4. Share power. Create an atmosphere within the MDK that every individual has importance. "Organizational power can grow, in part, by being shared...Delegation does not mean abdication."

5. Realign the management. The management within the MDK should be realigned so that appointments are based upon rank (belt rank held), time in grade (time belt rank has been held), time in service (seniority of individual's membership), and expertise (demonstrated abilities) based upon education and experience.

6. Make an honest and sincere attempt to reconcile differences with ex-patriarchs of the MDK. By winning back high-ranking members and former executives to the MDK, all of their personal followers and supporters may be won as well. This will boost the organization's power and generate increased revenue resources.

By adopting and executing these suggestions, much of the MDK's lost power can be regained as well as increasing the overall power of the organization, and preventing future conflicts from occurring.

Summary and Conclusion

The MDK is by no means an easy organization to analyze. It is an organization with a troubled history most of which it has weathered well. It is a military organization by structure, but it has adopted elements of business with regard to its management. Sources of power in the MDK include recognized powers and subliminal powers. Recognized powers, such. as the positional powers of rank and executive position, and expertise powers suck as skill and knowledge, are virtually uncontested. However, subliminal powers, such as information power, obligation power, and referent powers, are areas of bitter conflict. Issues important to TSD practitioners (and consequently the MDK) include limited access to information, non-acceptance of Korean culturally based concepts of authority, and favoritism toward blood relatives by the highest executive of the MDK. The MDK is a maze of organizational problems compounded by social and cultural complexities. If ignored, these problems may eventually create irreparable rifts in the MDK that will leave it a virtually powerless enigma in the martial arts community.

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