Setting down roots in the Land of Smiles

National taekwondo coach Choi Young-seok will now be known as Chatchai Choi. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

It was at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics that Thailand's national taekwondo coach Choi Young-seok of South Korea first seriously entertained the idea of becoming a Thai citizen.

"I had a strong premonition at the time that we had a shot at clinching a gold medal at the 2020 Olympics [where Panipak Wongpattanakit claimed the gold medal for women's taekwondo in the 49kg category], after managing to secure silver and bronze medals in Brazil. After observing that Thailand's Olympic medals in boxing, weightlifting and taekwondo were coached by foreign talent, I felt a strong urge to see a 'Thai' coach steer the athletes to achieve Olympic feats.

"That is when I felt it was time I took the steps to become a Thai citizen. After living here for two decades I have grown to love this country and its people like my own."

Choi applied for Thai citizenship on Aug 13 last year.

"I have lived in Thailand with my family for a long time, and with each passing year, we have grown to love and appreciate this country. Moreover, my family and I have found Thailand very welcoming to us and feel very happy to have the chance to live here. I see my future here and that of my family.

"I have been described as the Korean coach who guided Thai taekwondo to global recognition, however, now as I have received Thai citizenship I will be referred to as the Thai coach behind the success of local talent, which makes me a happy man."

Choi Young-seok will now be called Chatchai Choi, a name given to him by Chao Khun Thongchai, a senior monk at Wat Traimit.

While he is getting used to his new Thai name, he said a couple of things he can now accomplish as a Thai citizen would be to put down roots in Thailand permanently.

"My family and I have lived in a condo for the entire time we have been in Thailand. My son is now 13 and aspires to learn horse riding. My hope is to purchase a house that will offer us a greater sense of belonging. This is also a step towards securing our future in Thailand.

"In terms of my work, I envision being able to do much more as well. When the opportunity arises I can now work in other aspects of building and promoting taekwondo both domestically and internationally which as a foreigner I would probably not be able to do."

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