South Korea has always had a reputation for developing some of the badminton world’s best doubles teams. For proof, look at the pairing of Jung Jae-Sung and Lee Yong-Dae. Or marvel at the achievements of Park Joo-Bong and Kim Moon-Soo. Before these pairings, however, one duo dominated the men’s doubles division from the 90s to the early 2000s. One half of this pair consisted of Kim Dong-Moon. The other half was none other than the legendary Ha Tae-Kwon!
Ha Tae-Kwon was one of the greatest South Korean doubles players of the 90s, best known for his run of dominance alongside Kim Dong-Moon. With Kim Dong-Moon, he captured more than 20 International Badminton Federation (IBF) Grand Prix titles. Ha Tae-Kwon and Kim Dong-Moon also enjoyed multiple reigns atop the All-England and Asian Badminton Champions. A World Champion, Ha Tae-Kwon represented South Korea in the Olympics three times. He won bronze in the 2000 Olympics and bagged Olympic Gold in the 2004 Olympics with Kim Dong-Moon. In 2002, Ha Tae-Kwon won gold in the Malaysia Satellite in the men’s and mixed doubles events. In 2005, Ha Tae-Kwon retired from the sport after playing his last match at the 2005 Thailand Open. He joined the Badminton Hall of Fame seven years later.
Known for dexterity and skill in front and the rear, Ha Tae-Kwon was a force to be reckoned with on the court. Join me as I revisit the illustrious career of one of South Korea’s badminton greats, Ha Tae-Kwon!
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Ha Tae-Kwon was born on April 30, 1975, in Jeonju, Jeollabuk-do, South Korea. Ha Tae-Kwon’s badminton journey began when he was an elementary student. He played badminton recreationally until it grew into an obsession.
As time passed, Ha Tae-Kwon’s fascination increased in parallel with his skill. As a result, he played in small youth competitions until he heard about his elementary school holding tryouts for the youth badminton team.
Given his zeal for the sport, he tried out. Among the hopefuls present was another young shuttler — Kim Dong-Moon.
The two young players hit it off literally and figuratively at the tryouts. Unfortunately, neither made the team on the first try. Luckily, both tried out again half a year later, with Kim Dong-Moon making the team.
At the time, the elementary badminton team coach, Im Chae Kyung, needed one more player. Under the recommendation of Kim Dong-Moon, coach Im selected Ha Tae-Kwon. Ha Tae-Kwon and Kim Dong-Moon went on to train together in the elementary school team and played doubles in local inter-school competitions.
Ha Tae-Kwon’s Youth Debut
Despite the promising pairing of coach Im, Ha Tae-Kwon played his first junior international competitions with Hwang Sun-Ho.
The young pair embarked upon their first international competition, the 1991 Denmark Open. The pair entered as one of the seeded teams but lost early on.
The loss did little to discourage Ha Tae-Kwon from competing that year. As luck would have it, Ha Tae-Kwon’s opportunity for redemption came less than two weeks later at the 1991 Hungarian International.
There, Ha Tae-Kwon competed in the men’s singles, men’s doubles, and mixed doubles events. Coming up short in the men’s singles and mixed doubles events, Ha Tae-Kwon performed better in the men’s doubles event.
In the men’s doubles event, he and Hwang Sun-Ho advanced to the finals. They faced their compatriots Kim Young-Gil and Lee Dong-Soo.
Despite being the less-experienced pair, they gave their opponents a tough match. Ha and Hwang narrowly won the first game 17-14. But, Lee Dong-Soo and Kim Young-Gil emerged victorious in the second game, winning it 15-12.
The third game went the way of Lee Dong-Soo and Kim Young-Gil. With their opponents winning the third game, Ha Tae-Kwon and 2 walked away with a silver medal. The silver medal was Ha Tae-Kwon’s first medal as a junior player.
Confident in his 1991 result, Ha Tae-Kwon competed in several tournaments from 1992 to 1993. Of his competitions, Ha Tae-Kwon’s best performance was at the 1993 China Open.
At the 1993 China Open, Ha Tae-Kwon competed in the men’s and mixed doubles events. For the men’s doubles event, he paired up with Yoo Yong-Sung to win bronze. Meanwhile, he competed in the mixed doubles event with Kim Shin-Young, winning bronze as well.
With his partners, Ha Tae-Kwon won two bronze medals in his first China Open — and at the age of 17!
Ha Tae-Kwon made his senior debut in 1994 at the Chinese Taipei Open. At the 1994 Chinese Taipei Open, Ha Tae-Kwon won bronze in the men’s doubles event with Yoo Yong-Sung. He was also a bronze medalist at the 1994 Korea Open, where he partnered with Kim Shin-Young to compete in the mixed doubles event.
Ha Tae-Kwon’s results improved months later. At the 1994 Hong Kong Open, Ha Tae-Kwon partnered with Shim Eun-Jung to compete in the mixed doubles event. For the first time in his senior career, Ha Tae-Kwon advanced to the finals. Awaiting him and Shim Eun-Jung were Denmark’s Thomas Lund and Marlene Thomsen. While Ha and Shim lost narrowly, they chalked up a runner-up finish — Ha Tae-Kwon’s best result since debuting as a senior player.
Early Success with Kang Kyung-Jin
After his senior debut, Ha Tae-Kwon played with different partners in the first half of 1995. By August, the Korean national team’s coach partnered Ha Tae-Kwon with Kang Kyung-Jin. The partnership brought success to Ha Tae-Kwon’s early career.
The newly formed duo’s first outing was at the 1995 Canadian Open. At the tournament, Ha Tae-Kwon and Kang Kyung-Jin breezed through the men’s doubles event to advance to the finals.
In the finals, the pair faced their compatriots Kim Dong-Moon and — Ha Tae-Kwon’s former partner — Yoo Yong-Sung. The two teams faced off in a match that went the distance. In the end, Ha Tae-Kwon and Kang Kyung-Jin snatched the third game to win the match. The victory gave Ha Tae-Kwon and Kang Kyung-Jin their first IBF Grand Prix title.
The duo’s winning ways didn’t stop there as they claimed another IBF Grand Prix title at the Hong Kong Open. Ha Tae-Kwon and Kang Kyung-Jin snatched the title after defeating Indonesia’s Rudy Gunawan and Bambang Suprianto in a close match.
Ha Tae-Kwon and Kang Kyung-Jin bagged runner-up finishes in 1996 at the Asian Championships and Thailand Open. Between these tournaments, the pair even debuted at the 1996 Olympics but lost before reaching the quarterfinals.
1997 was a title-filled year for Ha Tae-Kwon and Kang Kyung-Jin. From the latter part of January to March, the pair went on an undefeated streak. Their undefeated run included title victories at the Korea Open, Swedish Open, and the prestigious All-England.
Partnership with Kim Dong-Moon
After the 1997 Swiss Open, the national team’s coach paired Ha Tae-Kwon with Kim Dong-Moon. The partnership didn’t yield fruit immediately as they failed to advance in the 1997 World Championships. But, they quickly got their rhythm before the end of 1997.
Ha Tae-Kwon and Kim Dong-Moon bagged two Grand Prix titles in the latter part of 1997. They won the 1997 U.S. Open, defeating China’s Liu Yong and Zhang Wei. The pair’s second Grand Prix title victory came at the 1997 Hong Kong Open after they beat Indonesia’s Eng Hian and Hermono Yuwono in straight sets.
1999 was a successful year for Ha Tae-Kwon and his new partner. They opened their 1999 campaign with dominant title victories at the 1999 Swedish Open and 1999 Japan Open.
With the pair dominating opponents left and right, their next challenge stood before them after the Japan Open — the 1999 World Championships.
At the 1999 World Championships, Ha Tae-Kwon and Kim Dong-Moon faced the world’s best men’s pairs. But, despite the high level of competition, the duo advanced as far as the finals. Standing between them and a world Championship title were their compatriots Lee Dong-Soo and Yoo Yong-Sung.
Ha Tae-Kwon and Kim Dong-Moon showed their opponents no corner throughout the match. As a result, they won in straight sets and achieved their first World Championship title!
After the World Championships, the pair set their sights on the 1999 Asian Badminton Championships. There, Ha Tae-Kwon and Kim Dong-Moon dominated China’s Zhang Wei and Zhang Jun in straight sets, winning their first Asian Championship title — a title they’d win again in 2002.
The pair’s title victories foreshadowed more success in the Grand Prix circuit and other international competitions. But, if there’s one title journey the pair is famous for, it’s their journey to Olympic Gold.
Ha Tae-Kwon and Kim Dong-Moon at the Olympics
Ha Tae-Kwon was in the Olympics three times in his career. He made it to the podium twice. In both instances, Kim Dong-Moon was by his side.
The pair’s first Olympic outing was in 2000. At the 2000 Olympics, Ha Tae-Kwon and Kim Dong-Moon made it as far as the semi-finals. Unfortunately, they came up short, losing to Tony Gunawan and Candra Wijaya. But, Ha and Kim managed to win the bronze medal by beating Malaysia’s Tan Fook Choong and Wan Wah Lee.
Unsatisfied with the Olympic bronze, Ha Tae-Kwon and Kim Dong-Moon set their sights on the next Olympics, winning more Grand Prix titles to qualify.
And qualify for the next Olympics, they did. Between 2000 and 2004, Ha Tae-Kwon and Kim Dong-Moon amassed 14 Grand Prix title victories and another Asian Championship. Ha Tae-Kwon also bagged a double-gold win at the 2002 Malaysia Satellite to earn his spot in the Olympic team.
With Ha and Kim qualifying for the 2004 Olympics, they once again set their sights on Olympic gold. Much like their 2000 Olympic outing, they advanced to the semifinals where they faced Indonesia’s Eng Hian and Flandy Limpele. Dominantly, Ha Tae-Kwon and Kim Dong-Moon defeated their Indonesian opponents in straight sets to advance to the final.
Meanwhile, their compatriots Lee Dong-Soo and Yoo Yong-Sung defeated Denmark’s Jens Eriksen and Martin Lundgaard Hansen in a three-game match. So, the 2004 Olympic final was an all-Korean final.
Adamant to secure a gold medal victory, Ha and Kim established dominance early, winning the first game 15-11. With victory in their grasp, Ha Tae-Kwon and Kim Dong-Moon pulled out all the stops in the second game to win 11-4.
Winning the match, Ha Tae-Kwon and Kim Dong-Moon finally won Olympic gold!
Retirement and Life After Badminton
Ha Tae-Kwon continued playing well into 2005. But, with Kim Dong-Moon retiring after the Olympics, Ha Tae-Kwon had to experiment with different partners towards the end of his career.
Ha Tae-Kwon played one last match at the 2005 Thailand Open. After the tournament, he announced his retirement from the sport.
Three years after his retirement, he graduated from Wonkwang University. In that same year, he took up a coaching position with the Korean national team and, later, Samsung Electro-Mechanics.
His greatest honor came in 2012 when the BWF inducted him into the Badminton Hall of Fame.
Ha Tae-Kwon — South Korea’s Men’s Doubles Legend
Few men’s doubles players can match what Ha Tae-Kwon accomplished in his eleven-year career. As an Olympic gold medalist, World Champion, and multiple-time Asian and Grand Prix Champion, Ha Tae-Kwon will forever be remembered as being one of the best men’s doubles players in history!
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