Seeing as part of the CultFootball family is currently enveloped in all things Korean, it seems as good a time as any to work up a little overview of the mother country’s most important players overseas (especially considering the conversation about the Reds that just happened over roast gui). Let’s break it down, list style:
Son Heung-Min Hamburger SV – An 18 yr old striker who has earned the affectionate nickname “The Korean Müller” for a rash of goals in the Bundesliga preseason before he picked up an injury that sat him out for a few months. On his first game back this season he scored against Koln, making him the youngest goalscorer in Bundesliga history.
Cha Du-Ri Celtic – The 30 yr old is well traveled, having been born in Germany then playing for Bayer Leverkusen, Eintract Frankfurt, and a couple others before landing at Celtic this year. He started his career as a winger, but shifted to a right back midway through his career. He sees limited time in Glasgow but with his experience he is an excellent option in a pinch.
Kim Nam-il Tom Tomsk – At 33 years the defensive midfielder is invaluable to the Russian side, breaking up opposing attacking play and distributing calmly to start the offense. He was well known in Korea during the 2002 World Cup, where he managed to earn hordes of female followers for being a sexy bad boy. He’s generally outspoken and doesn’t seem to give a damn about the Confucian backbone of Korean culture, speaking to elders as if they were his equals…the maniac!
Park Ji-Sung Manchester United – Undoubtedly the best-known Korean playing anywhere in the world, the 29 yr old winger is a mainstay of Sir Alex’s side, and he’s been key in United maintaining top marks this season. United picked him from PSV Eindhoven where he’d scored 13 goals in 60-odd games. He’s quick, plays with intelligence, and along with Giggs and Scholes has become one of the old men of United, brought out when the team needs an injection of experienced quality. We could go on for some time on this one, but you probably come in knowing enough about him already.
Lee Chung-Yong Bolton Wanderers – 22 yrs old and a winger at the Reebok, the sprightly right-sider had a fantastic first season for the Trotters, picking up a number of awards for his firm play and competent delivery. He’s been run out 17 times this season, with 14 starts and two goals, and he’s just signed an extended contract that will keep him in place for the next few seasons. Bolton are a surprisingly attractive side to watch thanks in no small part to players like Lee.
Ki Sung-Yueng Celtic – Just 21 years old and with the center midfield skills that’ve earned him the nickname of “the Korean Gerrard”, the Gwangju native has become a mainstay in the center of the Bhoys’ side (albeit due to his filling the slot for injured captain Scott Brown). Ki won the Clydesdale Bank Young Player of the Month award for October, and has earned praise from within the club as well, as Brown himself has told the press he worries about his old slot with the quality the Korean has exhibited in his absence.
Suk Hyun-Jun Ajax – Another young forward (at just 19 years), Suk is the first Korean to play for storied Dutch club Ajax, where he’s only shown three times for the senior team. He recently picked up a straight red in the reserves for a dangerous tackle. He hasn’t made the senior bench this season after finding himself behind Suarez, Sulajmani, and Mido, but he continues to fight and we hope to see him loaned out if not brought up to play with the big boys.
Park Chu-Young AS Monaco – The 25 yr old forward has played 84 games for Le Rouge et Blanc with 19 goals, scoring on his debut and subsequently earning the spot of penalty taker for the club. He earned player of the month honors in November for his team-leading five goals this season, and though linked with some prem sides over the summer, decided to stay in the little principality attached to the south of France.
Jung Jo-Gook Auxerre – At 26 the striker is set for his first trip to Europe after leading his home side FC Seoul to domestic cup glory. He’s a sturdy fella at 6 foot 1, and has a powerful right footed shot. Auxerre have holes up top so it’s likely Jung will slot directly into the side.