I originally joined the Tavern as the “youth expert” but I admit that I have focused a little too heavily on the KYPA (youth players abroad, as opposed to KPA). But the core of all youth national teams, as well as most of our senior KNT, have started their careers in the K League. Without a doubt, the players I am about to introduce deserve equal mentioning, if not more, than the Spanish youth contingent. Those on this list are 유망주 (youth talents) who I’ve seen play for quite a while with the U20 and U23 divisions, and have stood out in our red and white. I obviously can’t cover all the promising youngsters, so the ones on this are the K Leaguers that have especially caught my eye over the last four years or so. I will start with those playing for the Northern-most clubs and make my way down south. Part I will cover 3 players from Suwon and Daejeon. Part II will cover 4 players from Pohang and Ulsan, while Part III will cover 3 players from Jeonbuk, Jeonnam, and Busan. I want to do a part IV but I would need to do a lot more research for that one.
I would also like to thank Jitevra from BSK for his insights on some of the players that I am not too familiar with. He’s the real youth expert, as he knows pretty much everything there is to know about the domestic scene.
Also, random note: We have hundreds of viewers each day, and on KNT game days or major tournaments we get thousands, but we only have 25 subscribers and only a hundred or so Facebook likes! Subscribe and like us on Facebook!
권창훈 (KWON CHANG HOON)
Where you might have seen him: 2012 AFC U19, 2013 FIFA U20 WC, Jeju Training Camp, 2015 Toulon Tournament, K League matches –> 2016 Rio Olympics
Kwon Chang Hoon was one of the standout midfielders from the 2012 AFC U19 generation that made the quarterfinals in the 2013 Fifa U20 World Cup. Around two years later, he has established himself as one of Suwon’s, and the K League’s, top midfield talents, and I expect him to be a regular starter ahead of the 2015 season especially now that Kim Do Hoon has left Suwon. [Update: he has already started all of Suwon’s matches, but his MF partner Kim Eun Sun got called up instead]
Suwon fans call him the “next Ko Jong Soo,” a very skilled midfielder for .Suwon and the KNT back in the day, but Ko Jong Soo was an established national superstar at that age, while KCH just had his first season where he started a couple of matches. For a more modern comparison, likening him to Ki Sung Yong would be overly simplistic, but the comparisons are there. His passing is very good, he both drops deep and pushes forward, and can occasionally produce a fantastic dribble. I followed him closely as he and Ryu Seung Woo were expected to fill in for the injured Moon Chang Jin (Kwon got the #10 jersey after all), and he certainly did a good job, scoring against Cuba (opening match) and Iraq (the quarterfinal).
Most recently, KCH has been called up for Stielike’s Jeju training camp before the Asian Cup, and played decently well in the 백호 vs 청용 friendly match played between the Jeju callups. I would love to see him in the upcoming KNT friendlies but unfortunately, there is a man by the name of Lee Jae Sung (to be covered in Part II) who is a true boss in the CM department, though he often plays AM as well. What’s sure, though, is that he’s a vital member of the U23 generation, and we will certainly see him in the Rio Olympics.
I don’t think this was his debut match, but even after being subbed on he was able to make quite an impact:
연제민 (YEON JE MIN)
There are three standout Center Backs from the 2013 U20 generation. Song Ju Hoon, languishing on the bench for Albirex Niigata, Woo Ju Sung, who’s had a decent start to last season but got injured and missed the majority of the season with Gyeongnam, and Yeon Je Min. From a club situation standpoint, look forward to Yeon Je Min the most.
Yeon Je Min is a player who I look forward to very much. With the 2012 AFC U19 and the 2013 FIFA U20 KNT teams, he was fantastic. His partnership with Song Ju Hoon was very solid, something that’s rare with KNT teams. He was also just named captain of our U22 National Team.
To me YJM is a very unfortunate case because I think he should be getting more playing time than he has been, especially considering how rare defensive talents are. After the 2012 AFC U19 Championship, he didn’t get to play much with Suwon in the 2013 season, only playing 4 matches that year. However, in the 2014 season he was loaned out to Busan where he finally got playing time. Naturally, I asked Jae, our resident Busan fan, multiple times how he was doing and pretty much every time I got “solid but not spectacular / not KNT ready.” He has not featured too much for Suwon’s preseason games, which worries me a bit. I really do hope players like Yeon Je Min and Woo Ju Sung get all the playing time they can get despite the emphasis on experience when it comes to center backs, because if Yeon Je Min comes to realize his full potential, he can become a VERY VERY valuable player for the KNT.
There are no major compilations on Youtube for YJM, but there are many short ball touch vids (Yeon Je Min vs. Iran, vs. Iraq, etc.), easily found by searching his name.
서명원 (SEO MYUNG WON)
Where you might have seen him: AFC U19 Tournament, Playing for Daejeon FC
Seo Myung Won, for quite a while now, has been THE top, most hyped youth talent in the K League. As the Korean media needs to compare every player to some existing player, he has been called the second Park Ju Young, not because he’s gonna mess up his pro career but because of how PJY was, like SMW, THE youth talent of his time. Since SMW was very young he was in the spotlight and played in our U15 and U17 national teams, but was unable to play in the 2013 U20 World Cup (at the age of 18) due to a nasty injury that stalled his progress for pretty much a year. Yes, LGJ was planning on calling him up at the age of 18. He is that talented.
Most recently, he played in the AFC U19 Tournament as our RW and was one of the few players who did not disappoint. In fact, he was probably our best player alongside Kim Gun Hee. Capable of playing pretty much anywhere in the attack (AM, RW, LW, occasionally up top), SMW is known as the technician, with good skills, dribbling, and vision. His finishing needs a bit of work, but in many other respects he really is a very interesting player.
Tim will tell you the player to watch is Adriano, and although I do like Adriano he has a limited ceiling. Should SMW reach his potential (players reaching their full potential is ALWAYS an if but I really do think SMW can do it considering his circumstances) he’ll become a beast. Considering Seo has been playing in the second divison for his entire career thus far, this season will be very important for him, as it will decide whether he can make the cut as a pro – will he struggle a little and stall like Moon Chang Jin, or will he break through like Lee Jae Sung? Fortunately, SMW is pretty much guaranteed to start, so I will be observing Daejeon closely for his progress.
So far in his two games he hasn’t done anything too noteworthy, but his team has been pretty awful so far to be fair. As Daejeon eases into the K League and finds their first shot on target, I’m sure he’ll improve.