World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) President Choue Chung-won presented a black belt and a diploma signifying the much-coveted ninth Dan ranking to Putin during an official visit by the Russian leader to South Korea.
Although Putin does not do taekwondo, he does regularly practice judo, despite his 61 years. His work to promote the sport earned him an eighth Dan from the International Judo Federation a year ago.
Putin, who was in the Korean capital, Seoul, to promote a pet project for a new Asian-European rail trade route, accepted the title modestly.
“I don’t think I have earned such a high Dan,” he said, promising that Russia would strive to contribute to the development of martial arts.
Putin was judo champion of his home town Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, in his youth and starred in the instructional video “Let’s Learn Judo With Vladimir Putin” in 2008.
Many world leaders and celebrities have been bestowed with honorary titles in martial arts, including US President Barack Obama, who received a taekwondo black belt from his then-South Korean counterpart Lee Myung-bak in 2009. Others recipients of the honor include the leaders of Pakistan, Indonesia, Honduras, Croatia, Austria and Spain.