The K League Guidebook.
The devastating impact of the Corona Virus has been all too visible to see. Especially in the world of live sports. Financial ruin, heartbroken supporters, and major roadblocks have stumped everyone invested in the world of sporting events.
With the Tokyo Olympic being postponed indefinitely, and major sports like football, that has left supporters utterly miserable and unsure what to do on weekends. Life as we once knew it has changed forever.
But it’s now May, and after months of deliberation and setbacks, the Korean professional football league has overcome the formidable task of getting the ball rolling. With that in mind, I thought it would be a great time to help you understand the Korean football league why you should tune in every weekend.
Well folks, Korean football is back!
Finally, after 10 weeks of delay, the 2020 K- league season has kicked off. And what a number of weeks it has been so far.
With stringent safety measures enforced to mitigate the spread of Coivd 19, such as no handshaking, no fans, and the requirement of masks for substitutes and coaching staff, it’s felt rather bizarre. With players tested regularly, they have ruled that anyone who tests positive for COVID 19, will have to sit out for two weeks; and their team, coaching staff, basically anyone connected to the club. A tough, yet justified response.
For all the safety measures in place, what we have is live football. Something we could never have foreseen just a couple of weeks ago.
Still, with no hope in sight for most football leagues, it’s truly an amazing feat that the Korean football league has started.
Taking all this into account, football associations around the world will watch closely to see how the K- league unfolds. The burning question on everyone’s mind is whether it will be a success or failure. I guess only time will tell. But meanwhile, we can appreciate Korean football. All the goals and saves, and of course the mishaps like the misplaced sex dolls that have focused the international spotlight on the league for all the wrong reasons.
As the K-league beams out across the world, on websites like the BBC for the first time in its history, the newfound focus on players is fantastic to see.
“I really appreciate that we can promote both the Korea Republic and the K-League. We have a chance to let football fans from all around the world know that there are many good players in our country if we perform to or best on the pitch, “said Hong, who was an integral part of Jeonbok Motors football club last season.
Let’s delve a little deeper in to the world of Korean football and unearth the formalities and history of the league.
The professional football league has a relatively brief history when compared to some major leagues around the world. Established in 1983, the K-leagues existence of 37 years is action-packed with a whole host of events.
As you can see below, I’ve set up a timeline to go through all the major events leading up to the formation of the K-League. Scroll down to see when, and how football developed on the Korean peninsular.
Association football is introduced in Korea.
A British Royal Navy ship, the HMS Flying Fish sails into the port of Incheon. Its crew take to the shores and play the first game of football.
Football takes off. Working-class men come together and form clubs like, Bulgyo Cheongnyeonho and Joseon Football club.
The Japanese occupation of Korea begins.
Japan occupies Korea.
The All Joseon football tournament commences.
Joseon-was actually the name for Korea during this period. The Tournament starts, but cannot finish due to controversies regarding the referees decisions.
Kyungsung FC win the Japanese Emperor’s Cup.
For the first time in the Emperor’s cups history, a Korean team wins. Kyungsung FC beat Tokyo Bunri University 6-1 at the Meiji Jingu stadium in Tokyo. Korea rejoice.
August 15, 1945: Korea gains independence.
The Korean War.
North Korea invades the South, and one of the most destructive wars in modern times commences.
The Korean War Ends.
The Korean Armistice Agreement is signed, and they create the DMZ.
The Korean National Semi- Professional Football league is founded.
The Semi-Professional football league is formed. Played mostly in Seoul, corporate men from companies join to make teams and compete. They divided the 1964 season into the spring and Autumn leagues because of the extreme temperatures that exist in the summer and winter. They divide the league into two groups of 3 teams.
Korean Super League
The Korean Super League begins.
The Korean football league has a major overhaul.
The powers to be rename the league to K league. Since its creation, the league has expanded from 5 to 16 clubs.
K league introduces the division system.
Unlike many Leagues around the world, the Korean league only has two professional divisions. They name the top division K League 1, and the second division K League 2.
Korean football Pyramid
The Korean football League pyramid is not what you would expect. Compared to English football, which has 24 levels, in Korea, you only recently have 7 tiers. More so, the two top divisions, the K League 1 and 2, are the only professional leagues. Meaning, the teams that play in these leagues can never drop down the pyramid. They are safe, unlike English teams like Blackpool and Portsmouth.
What you also find in the Top tier league is the ownership differs.
Korea has three main types of clubs that impact the amount of money and facilities that the clubs can use. The three dominant types are:
Teams like Ulsan, Jeonbok, and Seoul are, as the name suggests, owned by vast companies like, Samsung, POSCO and Hyundai, etc. With this in mind, Chaebol clubs have access to money. We all are too aware of what money can do for you in football. More expensive players, an array of marketing, and better facilities.
Next on the list are community clubs. Usually owned by the local governments. A lot of clubs fall into this category. For instance, Incheon, Daegu, Gwangju. The goal for the teams owned by the local governments is to win the league. But they are also a lot more family-focused and community-centric.
Last but not least, we have the military clubs. Korea has mandatory conscription. Males who are deemed physically and mentally fit have to serve in the military. Sangju is the only top tier club that is a military team. Players are loaned from professional clubs and come together to make a different team each season.
|1||K League 1||Professional: 12 teams, One champion, two relegation and One playoff.|
|2||K League 2||Professional: 10 teams, 1 promotion, and 1 playoff. No relegation.|
|3||K3 League||Semi-pro: 16 teams, No promotion, 2 relegation and 1 relegation playoff.|
|4||K4 League||Semi- Pro: 13 teams, 2 promotion spots to K3, 1 promotion playoff spot, no relegation.|
|5||K5 League||Amateur: 67 clubs, 11 regions, No promotion, 11 relegation spots.|
|6||K6 league||Amateur: 190 clubs, 26 regions, 11 promotion spots, 30 relegation spots.|
|7||K7 League||Amateur: 1002 clubs/ 160 regions, 30 promotion spots.|
2020 K 1 League teams.
The Corona Virus dealt an enormous blow to the fixture list for the K League 1 season. The K League 1 season has 38 games. However, because of the later than planned start, the league decided that all the teams will now play 27 games. Each team will play one home, and away match, and then the league will split up for the 5 remaining games.
* An important note, there will only be an outright champion if they play 22 games.
K League 1 summary
Jeonbuk is the team to beat this season. They have won the K League three times in a row, edging Ulsan in dramatic fashion to the top spot in 2019. Ulsan will also be up there in contention this year. Possibly feeling like they want to avenge a series of blunders at the end of last season and making up for it. Incheon and Gyeongnam really struggled last season. Could it be the same this year? Well, Incheon has drawn two and lost one in three games already. Things are not looking good.
Foreign players in K League 1
Unlike the premier league where teams are awash with foreign talent, in the K League you can have up to three foreign payers, an AFC nation player, and an ASEAN professional. Some notable players in the K League to watch out for:
Adam Taggart– (Australia) – With 33 games and 20 goals to his name last season, Taggart was an absolute steal for Suwon Samsung Bluewings in 2019, costing $150,000.
Juior (Brazil) – Ulsans’s top goal scorer in the 2019 season and second overall in the league with a sumptuous tally of 19 goals.
Cesinha (Brazil) – With 15 goals and 10 assists in 2019, this Brazilian veteran added some much-needed quality to Daegu.
Stephan Mugosa (Montenegro)- Netting 14 goals in 30 appearances for Incheon last season and 19 in 32 appearances in 2018, Stephan has a proven track record for scoring.
Alexander Pesic (Serbia) – FC Seoul signed the Serbian striker on an 18-month loan back in 2019. He was the leading goal scorer in the 2017 Serbian league, scoring 25 goals in 35 games. Not bad at all.
2019 K League 1 Final Standings
*Suwon 2019 Korean FA Cup winners.
Current K League 1 Table
Updated league table and fixture list
2020 K League 2 teams
- Buncheon FC 1995
- Dajeon Hana Citizen
- Suwon FC
- Gyeongnam FC
- Jeonnam Dragons
- Seoul E-Land FC
- Ansan Greeners FC
- Jeju United
- Chungnam Asan FC
- FC Anyang
K League 2 summary
Gwangju FC and Busan I Park won promotion in 2019. Gwangju got an automatic promotion, not with the strongest record, but winning 21 of their 36 games and having a 50% clean sheet record. Busan also qualified their spot in the Korean League 1 by beating Gyeongam FC 2-0 in the playoff final. Jeju and Gwangju were relegated, but it seems Jeju is the bookies favorite to go back up.
2019 K League 2 Final Standings
|5||Ansan Greeners FC||36||14||8||14||46||42||+4||50|
|10||Seoul-E Land FC||36||5||10||21||43||71||-28||25|
Current K League 2 table
Updated league table and fixture list
If I’ve sparked your interest in Korean football, or you’re curious about a team, then you should check out the websites below.
I’ve tried to give you an overview of football in Korea, hopefully you can take away some things and enjoy the game.
If I’ve missed anything please comment below and I can update and add it. Stay safe and enjoy Korean football!