Korean Humanitarian Uses Taekwondo to Change the Lives of Syrian Refugee Children

The Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan began in 2012 and has opened its doors to over 100,000 people who have fled their homes due to the Syrian civil war. Charles Lee, a South Korean humanitarian, witnessed much of this chaos during his 14 years spent living in the Middle East.

More than half of the Syrian refugees in the Zaatari camp were children under the age of 18. These children lost their home, their school, their friends and even family members. Understandably, the children were in a state of despair. Lee felt that he needed to do something to lift the spirit of these children.

He then recalled being inspired by his experiences with Taekwondo back home in Korea. Recognizing the positive teachings of the sport, he decided to open a Taekwondo school at the Zaatari refugee camp in July 2013.

“These children have seen their family members killed and tortured,” Lee recalls. “My ultimate goal is to raise them to be he next generation of leaders. And Taekowndo is the right tool to deliver that message.”

Has it helped the children? Absolutely.


The small group of 60 kids has now turned into a school with classes four days a week and a wait-list three digits long.

Parents claim that the martial arts help their children gain a sense of sportsmanship and helps them keep active in the camp. Most importantly, parents have said the training helps their children cope with the trauma of the civil war.

Currently in production, After Spring is a documentary which takes an even closer look at the Taekwondo class by following the families and students in Lee’s class.

The filmmakers are currently raising funds to travel back to Jordan and explore deeper into the stories of Mr. Lee and his students. To support them, check out their kickstarter here.

Take a sneak peak at After Spring below and learn more about the documentary here.