Photo: AP/Everett Collection
He’s already been deemed more powerful than President Obama — and now, he’s even tougher than Chuck Norris.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin, on a visit to South Korea, was honored with a ninth-degree black belt from the president of the World Taekwondo Federation — ranking him a notch higher than Norris.
Putin, a martial-arts enthusiast, was humbled by the honor.
“I’m not sure if I deserve this,” said Putin, a former KGB agent, after receiving the honor. “Let’s call it our campaign to popularize this wonderful martial art. Russia will do its best to contribute to its popularity at home.”
Putin, 61, was judo champion of his home town of Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, in his youth, and starred in the instructional video “Let’s Learn Judo With Vladimir Putin” in 2008.
The video shows him flipping and tripping various white-robed patsies, none of whom appear to be fighting back.
Putin also has a black belt in judo.
He has carefully honed his world wide reputation as a tough guy with such testosterone-filled exploits as shirtless hunting and fishing, playing hockey against professionals and arm wrestling with an American congressman.
Earlier, this year Putin teamed up with another movie actor, martial-arts tough guy Steven Seagal, to promote Russia’s weapons market.
Seagal also helped Putin promote a fitness program.
Norris, best known for his run as a cowboy-hat wearing, tough guy trooper in “Walker, Texas Ranger,” could not be reached for comment.
The “Delta Force” actor famously sparred with Bruce Lee in “Return of the Dragon” the first in a string of hits that included the “Missing in Action” trilogy.
Norris has also championed conservative political causes, and backed former Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee in his failed White House bid in 2008.
South Korea gave Obama an honorary black belt during a visit in 2009, although the ranking wasn’t as high as Putin’s.
Before he hit the national stage, Obama took taekwondo lessons in Chicago, where a former instructor, David Posner, remembered him as “very disciplined, very diligent.”
But because the future president got a late start in the art, he “was not the best kicker, not the best puncher,” Posner told the Washington Post.
Taekwondo is a Korean martial art which combines combat and self-defense techniques with exercise.
It is popular among 70 to 80 million practitioners in 205 countries. Putin topped Forbes 2013 list of the world’s most powerful people.