I am confused about the whole WTF versus ITF conflict and the controversy within the ITF. Can you clarify it?
The world of Taekwondo is a convoluted mess, so I can understand your confusion. I do not claim to understand it all myself but here is a quick synopsis.
Korea originally had the ancient martial art of Taekkyon that eventually died out leaving no written record, so no one knows exactly what it entailed (was it an martial art, a folk dance, a sport, or a game?). During the Japanese occupation of Korea during the first half of the 1900s, many young Koreans went to, or were taken to, Japan, where they studied karate. After World War II and the emancipation of Korean from Japanese rule in 1945, some Koreans came back to Korea where they taught the karate they had learned in Japan. Over the years, the karate they taught became influenced by Korean traditions and remnants of what people thought was Taekkyon.
In 1955, the predominate masters met to decide what to call their new art. General Choi suggested the name Taekwondo and the name was adopted. Choi formed the ITF to govern Taekwondo and was its first president. Choi later claimed to have founded Taekwondo, not just name it (some dispute that he even initially proposed the name), which upset the other masters. Choi was born in what became North Korea (the sworn enemy of South Korea) after the Korean War, so he had connections and sympathies with North Korea, which greatly upset the South Koreans to the point that Choi and the ITF were forced out the country in the 1960’s. To this day, South Koreans believe there is a direct connection between the ITF and North Korea.
Since Choi’s death, there has been a struggle amongst various branches of the ITF as to which is the official ITF. When the founder of a large corporation dies, the founder’s choice for a successor is considered as a replacement, but it is the board of directors who decide who the new CEO will be. Sometimes they want to move the corporation in a different direction, so they choose a CEO that agrees with them. Such is what occurred with the ITF. As usual, the ones who favor Choi’s choice of a successor are the ones that will most benefit from that successor. Which organization will prevail is up to the courts and public opinion.
The WTF was formed to take over Taekwondo in South Korea after Choi and the ITF left. The ITF version of Taekwondo used many of the original karate techniques and patterns. The WTF wanted to eliminate karate’s influence and make Taekwondo a uniquely Korean martial art, so they changed the patterns and specialized in kicks, so much so that Taekwondo become known as the “kicking art, ” and changed Taekwondo from a martial art into a martial sport. The WTF was more successful in becoming a governing power in world Taekwondo than was the ITF, which culminated in the WTF gaining control of Taekwondo in the Olympics.
Choi wanted to unify the ITF and the WTF, but, to South Koreans, this would be equivalent to cooperating with the North Koreans, their sworn enemy. In addition, since the WTF already controls Taekwondo in the world, why would it want to relinquish any control to the weaker ITF organization when the WTF would not gain any benefit from the cooperation; only the ITF would benefit.
All these changes have split Taekwondo into two major factions; sport Taekwondo (controlled by WTF affiliated organizations) and traditional Taekwondo (controlled by ITF affiliated organizations). Each faction has its good and bad points. Similar to college affiliation where people tend to support and have close ties to the college they first attended, which type of Taekwondo you support depends mainly on which one you were first affiliated.
There are probably hundreds of Taekwondo organizations in the world, most small in size. Students happily train with these organizations for their entire lives. Some instructors do not belong to any organization and yet they teach good Taekwondo, produce quality black belts, and their students are very satisfied.
Organizations are not necessary for good Taekwondo. Organizations may say they exist to benefit the art and the students, but at some point, they all exist only to benefit themselves. When this happens, disgruntled black belts split off from the organizations and form their own organizations. Then, at some point, these organizations become power hungry, causing black belts to split off and form their own organizations. Etc. Etc.
As a student of Taekwondo, you should find a school in an organization that you like and fits your goals, or even a school you like that does not belong to an organization, and devote your time and effort toward training in Taekwondo with the school and supporting the school, and not worry about the power struggles between organizations. Let the power hunger, egotists worry about their organizations; just be happy and enjoy Taekwondo.