K League Round-up

Jinseok posted a round-up of the European action, but the K League is getting near completion as well, and this weekend’s action brought some new twists and turns.

K League Classic Results

Incheon United 0-2 Jeonbuk Motors
Jeonnam Dragons 1-2 FC Seoul
Jeju United 3-0 Pohang Steelers
Suwon Samsung 2-2 Seongnam FC
Busan IPark 4-0 Gyeongnam FC
Ulsan Hyundai 2-1 Sangju Sangmu

K League Classic Table
[table “” not found /]

The table, at this point, can basically be broken down into four sections. Title, AFC Champions League, split, and relegation.

Title Race

Jeonbuk has become the clear favorites after they defeated Incheon while nearest rivals Suwon were held to a draw with Seongnam. Pohang also faded further away as they lost to Jeju. Jeonbuk’s gap at the top now stands at seven points.

AFC Champions League

This race still has a little bit of wiggle room as the KFA Cup has not been decided yet. Remember, the top three places in the league get a spot with the Cup winner getting Korea’s fourth spot. Should the Cup winner be in the top three, then the fourth place team would claim the spot. Jeonbuk and Suwon look like locks for top three spots in the league, while Pohang (52), Jeju (50), and Seoul (49) fight for the last spot. Jeonbuk and Seoul are still in the KFA Cup (semifinal midweek), so we’ll see how that shakes out. As far as this weekend goes, the top three were unchanged, but Jeju’s win over Pohang brought them within two points of the Steelers with the two sides to meet one more time after the split. Seoul also closed the gap to Pohang to three points.


With one game left before the split, the final spot is still up for grabs. Jeonnam lost to Seoul while Ulsan defeated Sangju. The two are level on points (44), but Ulsan has a much better goal difference (+4 vs -5). Ulsan is in 6th place right now, but that could change next weekend. Ulsan has the slightly favorable match against Seongnam, while Jeonnam faces a stiffer test in Incheon.


Busan (32 points) whacked Gyeongnam 4-0 at the Asiad to move out of the relegation spots and up to 9th. Seongnam (31 points) remain just above in 10th. Sangju’s (29 points) loss sees them drop down to 11th (playoff spot), while Gyeongnam (28 points) remains rooted to the bottom in 12th. That being said, it’s only four points between 12th and 9th, so none will feel safe just yet.

*On a separate note, the future is looking very uncertain for Incheon United. The club is owned by the municipal government, and the government is well known in Korea for being in terrible financial shape. The city was already struggling, and the huge investment for the Asian Games has taken a hefty toll. As such, the new mayor (voted in earlier this year) is looking at ways to cut costs, and one of which is the 10 billion won (about $10 million) that the give to back the team. Some reports have suggested that the city may ask the league to relegate the team to the K League Challenge in order to cut costs. Other city owned clubs (Gyeongnam, Seongnam) will possibly face similar challenges in the future if the Korean economy doesn’t strengthen up soon. Watch this space.*

K League Challenge Results

Daejeon Citizen 1-3 FC Anyang
Gangwon FC 1-0 Goyang Hi FC
Chungju Hummels 2-1 Gwangju
Daegu FC 1-2 Ansan KP
Bucheon FC 2-2 Suwon FC

K League Challenge Table
[table “” not found /]

  • Daejeon’s title/promotion celebrations will have to wait another week as they lost to Anyang while Ansan won to keep their title chances mathematically alive.
  • Ansan and Anyang have virtually assured themselves of playoff spots. Both have a game in hand (against each other) over 5th placed Gwangju and with just four matches left and a seven and five point gap respectively between them, they should have enough to see out the challenge.
  • For Daegu, Gwangju, and Suwon FC this weekend represents a lost chance. Gwangju and Suwon faced the leagues bottom clubs, and dropped points to lose ground on the playoff chase. Daegu played direct rival candidates Ansan at home, and lost.
  • Honestly, of the three (current) playoff candidates I have mixed feelings about which one I’d like to see possibly promoted. Ansan seems deserving, and given the Sewol tragedy last April, for the town to be able to celebrate something (even as minor as football league promotion) would be nice. Gangwon-do has no team in the top flight currently, so it’d be nice for them to be represented. Anyang would present a wonderful chance to renew the rivalry with FC Seoul and give the league another media friendly derby.
About Jae Chee 339 Articles
A football fan who got bit by the writing bug.


    • I assume you were asking Jae, but I can answer the second question, and the short answer is no.

      Longer but not 100% precise answer off the top of my head:

      A few years ago the K-League was way bigger, what 18, 20 teams, and there was no relegation with the Challengers and the National League, since they weren’t owned by the same organization and couldn’t agree on stuff. I think once the K-League offered a promotion spot to the 2nd tier winner, but they declined, I think citing financial reasons.

      The AFC was sort of slapping them on the wrist for not having a promotion/relegation system in place (although they’re picking on the wrong Korea, to be fair), so things changed. This was around the match fixing scandal and stuff, and fans got really disenchanted with the K-League, so they changed things up.

      The K-League expanded, absorbed a National League franchise or two and split into two divisions over 2-3 years (more relegated teams than promoted teams) to give the current format.

      Anyhow, that’s all I can remember, and I’m not sure that’s 100% what happened, but it’s something like that. Jae, am I wrong?

      • (Forgot to add the most important part – so no, the K-League Challenge doesnt have relegation promotion b/c they are a different company/whatever you call it than the other tiers. The K-League remedied the “no promo/rel somewhere in the Korean football systems” by splitting into two divisions.)

        History of the last 10 years of the K-League for you right there lol.

    • Busan has picked a good time to get a nice run of form going, so they have a decent shot. Their record against the other bottom sides isn’t brilliant (other than Seongnam, who they’ve beaten three times), but their are enough draws in there to keep their necks above the bottom two.

      As Tim said, no there isn’t. The K League leagues are a separate entity from the “third” tier National League.

    • Looks like it, but mathematically they can still make the playoffs. They’ve been a bit too inconsistent though for me to feel like they can overhaul Gangwon though.

  1. As always, thank you for the post.
    It’s starting to look very bleak for Gyenongnam. I thought we were upsing, but the last two matches were really terrible. 🙁
    @ Jae: Any chance we will see more of your series on the K-League team analysis?

    • Possibly, but not for the whole league. The Gyeongnam one was just about complete, but then they changed managers and brought in Edin (sp?) and I decided to wait and see how those changes panned out. Perhaps the Gyeongnam one can come up soon, and I’ll release my super-long and frustrated Busan one at the end of the season.

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