What is a Taekwondo master called in Korean?

In Korean, a Taekwondo master is called a 관장 kwanjang (pronounced kwahn-jahng).

Kwanjang literally means a director or owner of an institute, training hall, or school. In Taekwondo, it can generally be used to mean a number of things. It can be used to refer to the founder or most senior practitioner of a particular style; it can be used to refer to the leader of a particular Taekwondo organisation; or it can be used as a general title to mean ‘grandmaster’. The usage of the term is not standardised across Taekwondo.

Kwanjang should not be used, however, to refer to the instructor of a single Taekwondo school – an instructor is called 사범 sabom in Korean. Nor should kwanjang be used to refer to just any black belt practitioner – a first degree black belt should not be called kwanjang.

While kwanjang is a noun referring to a grandmaster, if you were speaking directly to such a person, you would add the honorific suffix 님 nim (pronounced neem) – for example: ‘Kwanjangnim, would you autograph this book?’

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If you'd like to learn more about the Korean terminology used in Taekwondo, consider buying this book: Taekwondo Terminology. It contains an extensive dictionary of terms used in Taekwondo, as well as explanations on how to pronounce Korean words, and aspects of Korean grammar.

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