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Haeng Ung Lee, founder of the American Taekwondo Association (ATA)

LEE, Haeng-ung is the founder of the American Taekwondo Association (ATA).

Lee was born in 1936 in Manchukuo (now northeast China) after his family had left Korea, returning after World War II. From 1956 to 1959, Lee taught taekwondo to members of the Republic of Korea military. He started a commercial school to teach civilians in 1959. He later opened a school near a U.S. Air Force base, where he instructed and befriended an American serviceman, Richard Reed, who in 1962 sponsored Lee's emigration to the United States.

Lee moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where in 1969 he co-founded the American Taekwondo Association. Omaha remained the organization's headquarters until Lee relocated it to Little Rock, Arkansas in 1977. In 1990, the ATA Master's Council awarded Lee the rank of 9th degree black belt and the title of "Grand Master".

On October 5, 2000, Lee died of cancer. Lee's brother Soon Ho Lee was later promoted to 9th degree Grand Master after a period of dissent regarding which 8th degree Chief Master held the most seniority. Even after Soon Ho was made the new Grand Master by the ATA Master's Council, there remained fighting behind the scenes. H.U. Lee's widow, Sun C. Lee, received her late husband's shares in the company and became the new chairman of the board of the ATA. H.U. Lee was posthumously promoted to 10th degree black belt, and awarded the title "Eternal Grand Master". He is the first ever to attain this rank in the ATA.

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