Once considered a peripheral player in the world of soccer, South Korea is gradually raising its profile in the center of the sport.
From Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur), the top scorer in the English Premier League (EPL), to Kim Min-jae (Napoli), the Italian Serie A Defender of the Year, and Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain), who moved to a mega-club, Korea is turning heads.
South Korea has produced players who have conquered the European stage in the past, such as Cha Bum-geun and Park Ji-sung. However, their intermittent performances were typically characterized as the work of “special individuals.
Over time, however, the way Korean soccer has been viewed in recent years has changed. As Son Heung-min, Kim Min-jae, Lee Kang-in, and others have made their mark on European soccer, more and more people are taking notice of the special power of Korean soccer.
“K-Football is taking Europe by storm,” said Spanish media outlet Sport on Nov. 11, “and we are witnessing a ‘boom’ of Korean players in this summer’s transfer market. The transfers of Kim Min-jae and Lee Kang-in are good examples of the recent trend.”
Leading the way is Son Heung-min. He has scored double-digit goals in the Bundesliga for three consecutive seasons and has now scored double-digit goals in the EPL for seven consecutive seasons after making the leap to the world-class league.
In 2021-22, he scored 23 goals to finish as joint top scorer with Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), signaling the potential of Korean and Asian soccer.
In 2022-23, when Son Heung-min took a break, Kim Min-jae and Lee Kang-in shined.
After playing in the K League, China, and Turkiye, Kim made his debut in the big leagues of Italian Serie A and was a starter from the start, leading Napoli to their first league title in 33 years. He was even named Serie A Defender of the Year for his defensive prowess.
With Napoli’s success under his belt, Kim was now looking beyond Germany to join one of Europe’s most prestigious clubs, Bayern Munich. The Bavarians are making a serious push for Kim, sending a medical team to South Korea for a medical.
Lee became the first Korean player to reach double-digit offensive points in Spain with six goals and six assists in the Primera Liga. In particular, Lee has been the centerpiece of Mallorca’s offense, leading them from the bottom of the league to mid-table and earning a nomination for Primera Liga Team Midfielder of the Year.
Building on his success in Spain, Lee joined rejected club PSG for his second challenge. PSG are a force to be reckoned with in the French league, having spent heavily to acquire top-class players. Now, Lee will have to play in the ‘big time’.
While less in the spotlight than the three, Hwang In-beom (Olympiacos) and Lee Jae-sung (Mainz) are also increasing their value to their clubs. Hwang was voted the fans’ favorite player of the 2022-23 season, while Lee recently signed a three-year contract extension in recognition of his performances.
Add to that Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton), who is competing with world-class players in the EPL, and newcomers Hwang Eui-jo (Nottingham) and Kim Ji-soo (Brentford), and you have the faces of Korean soccer in Europe. Younger players with national team experience such as Cho Kyu-sung (Midtjylland), Jung Woo-young (Freiburg) and Hong Hyun-seok (Gent) also have the potential to step up to the next level.
“Hwang Hee-chan, Hwang Eui-jo, and Hwang In-beom are attracting the attention of several European teams,” said Sport. 토토사이트 Like K-pop, K-football is revolutionizing the European market,” said Sport, noting the progress of Korean soccer.