Karate is a Japanese word, and depending on which kanji you use to write it can mean either "China Hand" or "Empty Hand." The suffix do, meaning "The Way," was added by Funakoshi Gichin (the founder of Shotokan). When the Koreans opened their schools, they naturally spoke Korean. Therefore, they simply translated the word Karatedo into their native language. "The Way of the Chinese Hand" became Tang Soo Do, and "The Way of the Empty Hand" became Kong Soo Do. Some schools also used the term Kwon Bup, the Korean translation of Kempo and a reference to the Chinese art of Ch'uan Fa or "Fist Law." The individual schools themselves were known as Kwans, so therefore you had schools such as Chung Do Kwan Tang Soo Do, or the "Blue Wave School of the Way of the Chinese Hand." Five original Kwans sprang up prior to the Korean War, and an additional four were created before the Korean government forced the Kwans to unify and the term Taekwondo was coined.
Now that I got that out of the way, let's talk about what Korean Karate truly is.
In a previous article entitled, "Karate: Okinawan Jujutsu," I demonstrated that those patterns, which for the simplicity of this article I will refer to as hyung, were actually teaching joint locks, throws, take downs and grappling. These movements were concealed in the hyung for various reasons, not the least of which was to preserve the art's advanced teachings for only the most dedicated of students. You see, without the bunhae and eungyong (bunkai oyo in Japanese, meaning "analysis and application"), the practice of hyung is superficial at best. Many teachers will give you an application of the movements at face value, hence why so many practitioners think a standard low block with the ulnar bone facing outward, palm down, is to block a kick when the laws of physics dictate your arm would be shattered by a full-blown kick in that position.
When the original Kwan founders were teaching, they understood the intricacies of bunhae and eungyong. They continued the practice of grappling techniques and joint manipulation. If you can't see the hidden application within the movements, you need to continue training. Tang Soo Do/Kong Soo Do training sessions looked more like a modern Hapkido class than a modern Taekwondo class. They actually needed the mats they trained on, because people got thrown. A lot.
Another part of Tang Soo Do/Kong Soo Do practice included advanced methods of conditioning. It was commonplace for students to work on the dallyon joo (makiwara in Japanese), something completely lost in modern Taekwondo. I once attended a Goju Ryu seminar taught by an uchi deshi of Higaonna Morio, and he said something that has stuck with me since. "You can't lie about your hojo undo." It doesn't matter how fit you are. If you are not conditioned properly for fighting, it will show immediately. Being in running shape is not the same as being in fighting shape.
Following the Kwan unification, most Kwans adopted the new term Taekwondo for their art and dropped the use of Tang Soo Do and Kong Soo Do. So Jidokwan Kong Soo Do became Jidokwan Taekwondo, etc. The main exception was the Moo Duk Kwan, founded by Hwang Kee. At the unification meeting of the Korea Taekwondo Association, it became apparent that General Choi Hong Hi was set to become President and so Kee refused to unify with the other Kwans. He actually won two legal battles and the right to operate independently, but this caused the first rift in the Moo Duk Kwan as a faction led by several of Kee's students (Kim Young Taek, Hong Chong Soo and Lee Kang Ik) opened Moo Duk Kwan Taekwondo. Kee himself would later drop the name Tang Soo Do in favor of the term Soo Bahk Do.
Because many Moo Duk Kwan practitioners to this day continue to use the term Tang Soo Do to describe their art, it is a widely held belief that the only true Tang Soo Do traces back to Hwang Kee. However, Lee Won Kuk of the Chung Do Kwan was actually the first to use the term and as I previously stated, it's just the Korean equivalent of the generic word Karatedo, an umbrella term to describe a family of styles, not a style in and of itself.
The American Jidokwan Association began in the late 1970s/early 1980s as a collaboration (much like Kajukenbo) of three practitioners. William Sirbaugh, Shune Yung Davis and E.A. Fuzy had all studied either Jidokwan Taekwondo, Moo Duk Kwan Soo Bahk Do or Hankido (Hapkido branch founded by Myung Jae-nam). In the melting pot of California, they began training together and sharing their information which culminated in what was eventually called American Jidokwan Taekwondo. William Sirbaugh's son, Steven Hatfield, brought in a stronger Jidokwan connection when he moved to Ohio and began training and earning rank under Choon Mo Yang, who teaches traditional Jidokwan and has even been recognized by the Jidokwan Historical Society for his contributions to the Kwan. Eventually, Shune Yung Davis retired and E.A. Fuzy went his separate way teaching what he called "American Jidokwan Karate." This left William Sirbaugh as the sole instructor of American Jidokwan Taekwondo and when he died, he passed down the art to Hatfield. Soon after, Hatfield passed the Association to Patrick Justice who remains the current President to this day. It was Justice who decided to adopt the term Tang Soo Do as a reflection of the training offered under the Association in contrast to what modern Taekwondo has become.
Taekwondo has ultimately become nothing more than a sport outside of Korea. While the Kwans are still largely responsible for the actual training in Korea, they seem to have fallen into obscurity abroad. Most practitioners identify as either WTF or ITF Taekwondo, neither of which actually being a style (The World Taekwondo Federation isn't even a governing body but rather a tournament sanctioning organization). And it's sad, because the foundation is there. The application is there. Taekwondo has the capability of being a very effective martial art if trained properly. Unfortunately, the luster of Olympic gold is powerful and the majority of practice in Taekwondo now largely revolves around mindless form practice, with no thought to application, and tournament sparring.
The study of Korean Karate, however, maintains the combative application of the art with the emphasis on bunhae and eungyong. Rather than mindless repetition of hyung, practitioners regularly engage in partner drills demonstrating the practical application of the movements contained within them. All of the trappings of traditional Okinawan Karate practice are present in true Tang Soo Do (in what should be true Taekwondo), including the intensive bone conditioning. There truly is no separation other than language between Karate and its Korean counterpart. Same same, but different.