Ha Tae Kwon was born on April 30, 1975 in Jeonju, North Jeolla, Korea.
Ha and his future partner, Kim Dong Moon, met in Grade 3 at the Jinbuk Elementary School in Jeonju. At Jinbuk Elementary, forty students congregated in the school auditorium to learn how to play badminton for fun. As none of them knew how to play badminton yet, Im Chae Kyung the teacher in charge conducted a fitness to select four players out of the forty students to form the school team. Unfortunately, neither Ha nor Kim made the team. Their classmates, Lee Duk Joon and Hwang Sun Ho were chosen instead. Kim was added to the team six months later and he highly recommended Ha to the teacher. Ha would have to wait until the following year to be finally added into the team. By then, the boys were all in their 4th year of elementary school.
Ha and Kim also attended the Jeonju West Middle School and Jeonju Agricultural High School together. During their elementary and middle school years, Ha and Kim consistently won national titles in the junior categories. When they reached high school, Ha and Kim were split up to partner Lee and Hwang respectively.
Ha joined the national team at the end of 1992 during his 2nd year of high school. Ha and Kim reunited as a pair but would not win an international senior medal together until years later.
As early as 1993, Ha reached the semi-final stage of the China Open in Men’s Doubles with Yoo Yong Sung and Mixed Doubles with Kim Shin Young. Ha and Kim Dong Moon were both part of the gold medal Korean team at the 1993 Sudirman Cup but neither men played in the final tie against Indonesia. In the same year, Ha won his first national title in Mixed Doubles with Kim. In 1994, he reached the final of the Hong Kong Open in Mixed Doubles with Shim Eun Jung.
Despite his early success in Mixed Doubles, Ha’s first international title came in Men’s Doubles with left-handed Kang Kyung Jin at the 1995 Canada Open. The following year, Ha competed with Kang at the 1996 Olympics but the Koreans did not survive the second round. Their next titles came in 1997 at the Korea Open, Swedish Open and All England.
Reporting upon the 1997 All England, Mike Grossman and Martin Coe mentioned, “In the other men's doubles semifinals, the top seeds Sigit Budiarto and Chandra Wijaya were eliminated by the 5/8 seeded Koreans Ha Tae Kwon and Kang Kyung Jin. The combination of the tall Ha with his long reach and steeply angled smashes and kills and the left handed Kang with his jump smashes proved too much for the young Indonesians. Ha and Kang defeated Sigit and Wijaya 15-11 and 15-7.“ Ha and Kang then defeated Jon Holst-Christensen and Michael Søgaard in the final 15-11, 17-16.
Ha also occasionally played with Kim and won titles in 1997 at the Hong Kong Open and US Open. The coaches saw potential in their partnership because Ha won a final title with Kang at the 1998 Asian Badminton Championships and was paired with Kim for the rest of his career.
Ha would win a second consecutive title at the 1999 Asian Badminton Championship with Kim. After the Asian Badminton Championships, the pair would win another three titles in rapid succession at the China, Japan and Swedish Opens. The Koreans were awarded the top seeding at the World Championships in May 1999 and lived up to their seeding after defeating compatriots, Lee Dong Soo and Yoo Yong Sung, 15-5, 15-5 in the final.
Ha and Kim would not be able to add another World Championship title to their collection. In the next edition of World Championships, Kim and Ha lost 0–15, 13–15 to Tony Gunawan and Halim Haryanto Ho in the final round. Their results at the 2003 World Championships were even worse when they crashed in the second round to Indonesians Alven Yulianto and Luluk Hadiyanto.
Aside from their World Championship title, Ha and Kim won numerous titles from across the world until the end of their partnership in 2004. In international competition, the Korean duo delighted their fans at the Hong Kong Open (1997), US Open (1997), Japan Open (1999, 2004) Swedish Open (1999), China Open (1999), Swiss Open (2000), Chinese Taipei Open (2002, 2003), Danish Open (2002, 2003), Dutch Open (2002, 2003), Malaysia Satellite (2002), Asian Badminton Championships (1999, 2002) and with three straight crowns at the Korea Open (2001, 2002, 2003).
Kim’s calm demeanor complimented Ha’s showman personality perfectly. Ha was often regarded as the clown of the Korean team. Ha’s expressiveness really came to the fore during the 2000 All England. In the Men’s Doubles semi-final against first seeds Tony Gunawan and Candra Wijaya, the English crowd were vastly entertained by Ha’s antics. During a rally, Ha could not stop his momentum after a dynamic celebration and ventured into the Indonesians’ half-court. Wijaya jokingly kicked Ha’s butt to the amusement of the crowd.
Ha and Kim proved that their badminton was no joke. After toppling the Indonesian first seeds 15-12, 15-5, they met fellow Koreans Lee Dong Soo and Yoo Yong Sung in the final. The Koreans engaged in an amazing marathon match which lasted over an hour. During the fantastic encounter, Ha and Kim won a magnificent 68-shot rally and the 2000 All England title 15-4, 13-15, 17-15.
Ha’s 2000 Olympic quest began at the 1999 Australian International – Olympics Games Test Event. In order to not adversely affect their rankings for the approaching Olympic Games, many players switched partners for the event. Ha partnered Lee Dong Soo and had a silver medal finish.
At the official event in Sydney, Ha partnered Chung Jae Hee in the Mixed Doubles. Ha and Chung had previously reached the finals of the 1999 All England and Japan Open but were eliminated early in the second round by eventual silver medalists, Trikus Haryanto and Minarti Timur. In Men’s Doubles, Ha and Kim easily ousted reigning Olympic champions, Rexy Mainaky and Ricky Soebagdja 15-5, 15-9 at the quarterfinal stage. Mainaky and Soebagdja would be avenged by teammates Tony Gunawan and Candra Wijaya who defeated the Koreans 15-13, 15-10. Gunawan and Wijaya continued on to win the Olympic gold medal. After losing the Men’s Doubles semi-final, Kim was overwhelmed with emotion when he and Ha won their bronze medal match against Choong Tan Fook and Lee Wan Wah of Malaysia.
After the 2000 Olympic Games, Ha and Kim won a second title at the 2002 All England, the only All England in history to be played under the best 3 out of 5 games of 7 points system. The Koreans once again met Candra Wijaya in the semi-finals but with a different partner, Sigit Budiarto. The Koreans needed over 85 minutes to narrowly qualify for the final with a score of 2-7, 8-6, 8-7, 4-7, 8-7. Ha and Kim had more space to breathe in their four-game victory against Eng Hian and Flandy Limpele. They defeated the Indonesians 7–2, 7–2, 1–7, 7–3 to take their second All England title.
The 2004 Olympic Games would be a different story for the Korea Duo. Ha and Kim reigned supreme their first four rounds by awarding their opponents no more than 11 points in a game. In the final round, they dominated their fellow countrymen, Lee Dong Soo and Yoo Yong Sung, 15-11, 15-4 to take the Olympic gold medal. After prematurely losing his Mixed Doubles, the normally stoic Kim was very emotional when he received his gold medal on the podium.
Following in the footsteps of their predecessors Park Joo Bong and Kim Moon Soo, Ha and Kim all but retired from international competition following their gold medal victory at the 2004 Olympics. Ha took a break for the rest of 2004 but returned to play three events with Yim Bang Eun in early 2005. Ha and Yim reached the 2005 All England semi-finals. Ha, Yim, Kim, and Ra Kyung Min all returned to defend Korea’s Sudirman Cup title in May 2005 but Korea lost 0-3 to China in the semi-finals.
Ha continued to play domestically with both Kim and Yim. He won two nation-wide Men’s Doubles pro division titles with Kim Dong Moon in 2005 and led Samsung Electromechanics to three team titles in nation-wide tournaments from 2005 to 2006.
After retiring from international play, Ha’s career naturally switched to coaching. From 2005-2006, he was a trainer on the National Team before becoming a coach from 2007-2009. From 2009-2014, he was a coach to the Samsung Electro-Mechanics alongside his position as coach to the national from 2012-2014. In 2015, Ha became Head Coach of the Yonex Korea Badminton Team.
In 2009, Ha was back on the court with Kim at the Korea Open but the two former partners were sitting on opposite sides in the Coaches’ Chair. Kim was coaching Canada’s William Milroy and Fiona Mckee in their opening mixed doubles match against Ko Hyun Jung and Lee Haeng Ham, who were being coached by Ha Tae Kwon. The Canadians won and advanced to the next round.
Ha frequently provides colourful commentary on badminton broadcasts. He commentated the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games and 2016 Rio Olympics for KBS.
Ha Tae Kwon was inducted into the BWF Hall of Fame in 2012.
2012 – BWF Hall of Fame
BIBLIOGRAPHY & REFERENCES
Badminton World Federation – Statutes 2007/2008
International Badminton – the first 75 years
World Badminton (Magazine)
-- By Yves Lacroix