and Michelle Kwan around the world to speak the “universal language of sports.” While such interactions don’t necessarily open up “new chapters of history,” they do have an important impact, as illustrated by the Taekwon-do Demonstration Team’s experience.Last October’s tour was probably the biggest cultural exchange between the United States and the DPRK at that time.For these two countries to achieve the level of exchange now enjoyed between the United States and China, sports exchanges will play a vital role – just as they did in the 1970s with ping-pong diplomacy.Ping Pong Diplomacy Cultural diplomacy is as old as explorers and traveling merchants who were “early cultural diplomats,” according to the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy.The delegation of twenty North Koreans, including Captain Pae Nung Man, a translator, and guides, toured five cities during their two week tour of the United States.All together, 13,000 people saw the hour-long Taekwon-Do demonstrations, which were accompanied by other entertainment such as Korean folk dances.Zhuang initially got in trouble for failing to obey another of Mao’s edicts: do not to talk to the Americans. government waived government regulations against travel to the Communist nation for the team – although some in the U. government wanted to bar Cowan, fearing the drug-using “hippie opportunist” (as he had been described by one disgruntled U. government official) would not make a good impression.Eventually (and the details vary on how) the Chinese extended an invitation to the American team, and Mao commented that Zhuang was good at both ping pong and diplomacy. But the American delegation – team members, as well as officials, spouse and press – were all warmly received, Cowan included.
But then Chinese star Zhuang Zedong, determined to follow an edict from Chairman Mao to distinguish between the American people and their policy makers, decided to offer Cowan a gift.
And all along the way they were warmly welcomed, hosted, chauffeured and feasted by friendly and generous Taekwon-Do buffs and Korean American families.
The Institute for Cultural Democracy quotes Yo-Yo Ma saying that, “A Senegalese poet said, ‘In the end we will conserve only what we love. And we will understand only what we are taught.’ We must learn about other cultures in order to understand, in order to love and in order to conserve our common world heritage.” In this case, the Good Will Tour strengthened an existing cultural bond.
At a magnificent reception Zhou Enlai stated “Your visit has opened a new chapter in history of the relations between Chinese and American peoples.” The United States lifted a twenty-year trade embargo the same day.
In part riding on the good will generated by the Ping Pong team’s trip, President Nixon visited China the following year.