After winning a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics and gold medals at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games and 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games, Korean soccer had high hopes for the resources that came with being exempt from military service. Unlike other sports, there are a lot of professional leagues in Europe, and there was a lot of public opinion that wanted to see a synergy between the development of Korean soccer and personal improvement.
The benefit of military service is the convenience of only having to go through basic military training whenever you want. If you’re doing well in your league, you can even adjust the timing. You have to fulfill your service hours by a certain period of time, but it’s something to be thankful for.
Of course, not everyone can go to Europe with the benefit of military service. In the case of the London Olympics, only seven of the 16 field players (excluding goalkeepers, a specialized position) played in Europe. Ki Sung-yong, Ji Dong-won (FC Seoul), Kim Bo-kyung (Suwon Samsung), Koo Ja-cheol (Jeju United), and Park Joo-young (Ulsan Hyundai) are among them. Yoon Seok-young (Gangwon FC) tried, but it wasn’t easy, and Nam Tae-hee (Yokohama F.Marinos) became a Qatari prince.
At the 2014 Incheon tournament, minus the two goalkeepers from the 20, only Kim Jin-soo (Jeonbuk Hyundai) and Park Joo-ho (retired), who had already made it to Hoffenheim, and Lee Jae-sung (Mainz 05) saw the light. Yoon Il-rok (Gangwon FC) knocked on Europe’s door, but the threshold was high. Son Jun-ho, who was interested in Europe, is currently detained in China.
The 2018 Jakarta-Palembang tournament, which featured Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur) and Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton), made the gold medal more valuable. Of the 18, Kim Min-jae (Bayern Munich), Hwang In-beom (Tsubena Zbezda) and Hwang Eui-jo (Norwich City) headed to Europe. Kim Jung-min, Lee Seung-woo (Suwon FC) and Lee Jin-hyun (Daejeon Hana Citizen) also returned to the K League after a stint in Europe, but they were also applauded for their determination. Cho Hyun-woo also had some interest from Montpellier (France), but turned his attention to the domestic scene, while Lee Seung-woo and Na Sang-ho (FC Seoul) are still pursuing European opportunities.
All eyes naturally turn to the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games gold medalist. Of the 19 field players, 14 have new dreams, not including Jung Woo-young (Stuttgart), Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain), Hong Hyun-seok (KAA Hent), Park Kyu-hyun (Dynamo Dresden), and Lee Han-beom (Mittwilan), who are already in Europe and playing for the A national team.
In particular, Cho Young-wook (Gimcheon Commerce), Ko Young-joon (Pohang Steelers), Park Jin-seop, Song Min-gyu, Baek Seung-ho (Jeonbuk Hyundai), Uhm Won-sang, and Seol Young-woo (Ulsan Hyundai). Hwang Jae-won (Daegu FC). All eyes will be on Chung Ho-yeon (Gwangju FC). European interest has been building for some time. Cho Young-wook was reportedly approached by PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands) before joining the military.
Baek Seung-ho will become a free agent (FA) at the end of the season. His desire to return to Europe rather than re-sign with Jeonbuk is readily apparent. Jung Ho-yeon will have to show a level of quality that will satisfy Lee Jung-hyo, but it’s not out of the question as he was one of the players that officials came and observed in the first half of the season at Celtic.안전놀이터
It’s just a matter of maturity. “I don’t think he’s good enough to go to Celtic yet. “I don’t think he’s good enough to go to Celtic yet. If you want to go abroad, it’s better to take one shot at the national team and then leave.”
To make it to Europe, the timing, circumstances, and environment all need to be right. It’s natural for K League clubs that have been developing players to want to see a financial return on their investment through transfer fees.
When Kim Min-jae returned to Napoli for a break after reaching the round of 16 at the World Cup in Qatar last December, he said, “If Korean players get offers from European teams, I hope (clubs) will send them well. Honestly, I envy Japan a lot,” he said, a comment that epitomizes the difficulty of breaking into Europe.
Hwang Hee-chan, who is sixth in the English Premier League in scoring with five goals this season, had some sobering advice. “Not only the last Asian Games, but the Asian Games and the Olympics,” he told reporters after the 6-0 win over Vietnam at the Suwon World Cup Stadium on Sunday, “there are very few players who can make the A team after the tournament. I can count on one hand. I know she did really well this time. I’m proud of that, and I want to build on that,” he said.
Making it to the A-team level is a step up from the national team, which means a trip to Europe. “It’s not easy to tell players that they have to go to Europe. “It depends on the situation and the position,” he says, “but the players are getting a really good deal. I hope they take advantage of this opportunity to improve in their clubs, come to the A team, set big goals, and grow without being complacent,” he said, adding that he hopes they will not get drunk on the sweetness of military service benefits but will be armed with a new sense of challenge.
Kim Jin-soo, who was interviewed at the Hana OneQ K League Final A media day held at the Nine Tree Premier Locus Hotel in Yongsan, Seoul on the 18th, shared the same idea, saying, “I hope there are more friends who play in Europe, such as (Lee) Kang-in and (Kim) Min-jae, who don’t keep getting injured,” and expressed the need to continue advancing into Europe.
Most of the players who go to Europe are strikers or midfielders. Side defenders are few and far between. Other than Lee Young-pyo, Park Joo-ho, and Kim Jin-soo, Kim Moon-hwan (Alduhail) had a chance to go to Europe, but he chose to head to the Middle East.
“For the sake of Korean soccer, there should be more players who go abroad. There should be good players in my position. Then I don’t think I will be pushed out (of the national team),” he laughed. He indirectly hopes that the younger players, such as Seol Young-woo, Hwang Jae-won, and Choi Jun (Busan IPark), who are growing into the next generation, will continue to challenge him.