This study examines the historical significance of Jang Gwon’s activities in the sport promotion carried out by Korea’s YMCA. At its birth, the Korean YMCA’s sport promotion was closely linked with the Korean nationalist movement under Japanese colonial rule, and this link was most evident around 1920, when Jang Gwon worked as a judo master. Citing the Sokol movement in Czechoslovakia, Jang Gwon took initiatives to enlighten Korean people’s consciousness and popularize sports, including judo and basketball, across the country through the Korean YMCA’s sport promotion. In particular, Jang Gwon introduced modern judo—formally known as Gangdogwan (Kodokan judo), initiated by Jigoro Kano—in Korea and took initiatives to establish the Korean Basketball Association and the Korean Basketball Referee Association. Through the Korean YMCA’s sport promotion, Jang Gwon motivated the Korean people to aspire to liberation and independence from Japanese colonial rule. Moreover, amid the prevailing social climate, in which physical activities were discouraged due to the influence of Neo-Confucianism, he provided a paradigm shift that called for “sport for all,” which enabled the modernization of sports and physical education in Korea.
Choo is with the College of Physical Education, Kyunghee University, Yongin, Republic of Korea.