Korean Players Abroad: The 2023-2024 Season Comprehensive Preview

With the Premier League, Ligue One, and La Liga set to kick off tomorrow and other leagues to follow suit next week, I figured now would be a good time to recap a handful of our KPAs’ preseasons and preview what’s coming up for them.

In order:

Son Heung Min
Kim Min Jae
Lee Kang In
Hwang Hee Chan
Hwang In Beom
Oh Hyun Gyu, Yang Hyun Jun, Kwon Hyuk Kyu
Cho Gue Sung
Hwang Ui Jo
Kim Ji Soo
Hong Hyeon Seok
Lee Jae Sung
Jung Woo Young
Lee Hyeon Ju
Kim Min Su

Son Heung Min @ Tottenham

Son was initially absent from Tottenham’s preseason with Ange Postecoglou due to his injury however he is back and took part in most of their recent games on the left wing.

I hate to open on such a negative note, but I am a big proponent of Son leaving Tottenham. Not only is he going to be trophyless his entire career despite being the undisputed best Asian footballer for almost a decade now, he just really doesn’t fit Ange’s system if he remains out wide (from my limited knowledge based on TIFO’s video on Ange being a good fit for Spurs). Son is not your traditional winger – he’s a wide forward who loves to cut in and score or run behind the defense on the counter. In preseason he was playing pretty far out wide all game. Because that’s how Postecoglou teams play – an out and out CF who is in the box to receive crosses from the wingers who stay wide unlike Harry Kane who dropped deep and could pass for an elite #10. Son will be pushed out wide much more than usual this season. Not only will he not be playing the counterattacking style more favored by Pochettino and Mourinho, his strike partner for 7+ years Harry Kane has (likely?) left for Bayern so the odds of Son scoring 20+ goals again seems low.

If he takes Harry Kane’s spot and plays more of a #9 role then I could see Son doing well and scoring another 10-20 goals. Either way, this may just be my bias but I would personally want to see SHM move and actually win something rather than sticking around and becoming a club legend (although both options aren’t bad). Who knows, maybe Ange will turn things around and bring Son back to life.

If Son finds form again (e.g. last season rly was an anomaly), he could play for any team. It just had to be Spurs. Who bottle games. And is run by Daniel Levy. Who underpays his players and is a real a** when it comes to transfers (reports suggest there may be even more plot twists in the Harry Kane saga…)

On the bright side it seems Son is super determined to do better this season, but it truly sucks that he will probably end up with 0 trophies to his name at the end of his career. Even freakin Shinji Okazaki won a Premier League…

Prediction: typical Spurs season where they don’t finish top 4 (City, United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool look much stronger). I pray that Son will leave in the winter at least… but most likely he’ll stay at Tottenham until he retires. Sad.

Kim Min Jae @ Bayern

Harry Kane’s new Korean teammate has been racking up minutes with Bayern in preseason. He has generally impressed however he is clearly a bit out of form after coming back from military training. A Bayern official was even quoted as saying that Kim lost ~5 kgs during those few weeks

Kim Min-jae: “I’m not in my best shape yet, so I’m not fully satisfied. I want and need to improve and get to know my teammates better. I want to reach my top form before the start of the league”

Why are we saying that he is not quite up to speed? He had a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes in preseason, at least one of which led to Bayern conceding – but not to worry – our world class CB is still incredible, getting very positive feedback from fans as always, and with a couple more games he’ll surely be up to his usual flawless standard. Bayern will likely start with KMJ – De Ligt in the central defense against RB Leipzig in the DFL Supercup tomorrow (8/12).

Predictions: Kim Min Jae will play nearly all of Bayern’s matches alongside De Ligt – one of the top CB pairings in the world (if not THE best) without a doubt (contenders would probably be City and Real?). With Harry Kane Bayern now on the squad, Bayern are a good defensive midfielder and A goalkeeper away from being straight up Champions League contenders. I will certainly be rooting for Bayern and City in the CL. Speaking of which…

Lee Kang In @ PSG

The new darling of South Korea (seriously everyone’s obsessed with Lee Kang In now) unfortunately suffered a hamstring injury early on in preseason, near half time during his first game with PSG where he played RW. It was an otherwise impressive debut however.

Since then Lee has missed all of PSG’s matches except about ~20-30 minutes against Jeonbuk Hyundai (their last friendly prior to their league opener vs Lorient). But even during that game it was clear that he was still injured – he didn’t run or play nearly as intensely as he usually does, and you could even tell the Jeonbuk players were trying not to tackle him in any way.

French news outlets are predicting that Lee Kang In will start alongside new signings Ramos and Asensio up top for PSG. I still think he should be playing in midfield though, with Asensio, Ramos, and Dembele ahead of him (assuming both Mbappe and Neymar leave).

Speaking of Neymar, we need to talk about Lee Kang In’s strange bromance with Neymar. There was that one video that went viral (of Lee Kang In and Neymar on the bench). Watch any video of PSG training and you’ll see LKI and Neymar together. Lee Kang In also features prominently on Neymar’s instagram apparently, with Neymar commenting “Kanguinho [heart emoji]” at one point.

https://twitter.com/psgcommunity_/status/1685952804127408128?t=djWcRBDl48v7e2csMQf9zA&s=19
I could have picked so many examples but here’s just one

Prediction: Lee Kang In will be a starter for PSG. Whether it’s on the wings or in the middle, he is pure class and I have high confidence that he will establish on the team and play most of their matches this season. I am not as confident about PSG winning a Champions League compared to Bayern for obvious reasons, but hopefully they’ll make a deep run and maybe set up a repeat of the 2020 final. Unfortunately PSG and drama go hand in hand – there are even rumors that Luis Enrique will quit the job – so they’ll probably end up underwhelming just a bit.

Oh and it has been confirmed that Lee Kang In will play in the Asian Games – he negotiated that part in his contract. So military exemption will be decided in 1-2 months too.

Hwang Hee Chan @ Wolverhampton

Although Hwang Hee Chan seemed a bit out of form at the start of preseason he has eventually regained his form and now is almost certain to start in Wolves’ opener against Manchester United. He scored in their final preseason friendly against Rennes and looked pretty sharp.

Wolverhampton as a club are not in a great situation however. The manager that showed HHC lots of love last season, Julen Lopetegui, has quit the job leaving a relatively inexperienced Gary O’Neil at the helm. They also lost many of their key players (Ruben Neves, Conor Coady, Raul Jimenez, Nathan Collins among several other names) and didn’t bring in any reinforcements outside of Matt Doherty who came back to Wolves after spending time at Tottenham and Atletico and a goalkeeper named Tom King. The lack of investment from the club is reportedly a key reason why Lopetegui quit.

Prediction: I figure Hwang will start most of their games on either wing. He will probably score 4-9 goals along the way. But I do worry that Wolves are legitimately at threat of relegation. At best they will probably be lower-mid table. Sometimes I wonder if they could strengthen their squad by buying some good Korean players for cheap… but the club is not in a good state right now so maybe best to pass on this thought.

Hwang In Beom @ Olympiacos (?)

Hwang In Beom has been sidelined with injury for pretty much the entire preseason. He didn’t look very sharp in his NT outings either. However the player’s quality is clear and there were links to Napoli, Inter, Borussia Monchengladbach, among other teams earlier this year. Unfortunately he is still at Olympiacos (the man is WAY too good for Greece) embroiled in what seems to be a bit of drama. First there was this back in 2019:

Now, if sources are to be believed, HIB is pushing for a move and Olympiacos is so mad that they’re taking legal action. The thing is… why? There’s nothing wrong with a player asking for a transfer. Is it the shady agency? We will find out more soon…

I’m not making a prediction on Hwang In Beom’s season given all this uncertainty but I sure hope it will be with a quality La Liga or Serie A team. Not the Bundesliga please (purely because I believe Spain/Italy fits Hwang In Beom’s style better than the Bundesliga and to a lesser extent, the EPL).

The Celtic Boys @ Celtic

Oh Hyun Gyu: sadly, Furuhashi stayed at Celtic, meaning Oh will continue his role from last year as the 2nd choice CF – but even then he did score 6 goals in just 500 minutes (averaging a goal every ~80 minutes). I strongly believe he can get double digit numbers this season. However, it was very recently revealed that he was injured however and will be out for 6 weeks.

Yang Hyun Jun: solid preseason performances. Made his league debut in Celtic’s league opener against Ross County and although I didn’t watch this game, the reception was very positive.

Kwon Hyeok Kyu: Now this is where things get interesting. Kwon is turning out to be a popular figure among fans for his quirky personality – if Yang Hyun Jun is the Park Ji Sung-esque Asian kid, Kwon seems more outgoing. He speaks passable English, and he posted on IG (and announced in an interview) “Let’s fight together in paradise” with the typical Korean “화이팅” gesture.

“When I was playing at my former club I always had the Champions League song playing in my car,” he smiled. “When you repeat it, I think it then becomes true. I have my chance now to play in the Champions League and I want to become a legendary player here. This positive attitude is what I will take to training every day. I always dreamed of playing at a European club and I just want to do my best on the pitch.”

Kwon watched last season’s game against Real Madrid at Celtic Park, an encounter he was appreciative of despite the adversity of the result for what was then Ange Postecoglou’s side. He also spoke of his admiration for fellow countryman and former Celt Ki Sung-yueng but he is more focused on establishing his own name in Glasgow. There were some lofty comparisons made with his style of play to that of Manchester City and Spanish midfielder Rodri, something he was smart enough to distance himself from. “I am very happy to hear these compliments but I know that I still have a long way to go to become a player like Rodri,” he said. “I think I can improve a lot at Celtic and one day I want to become not Celtic Rodri but Celtic Kwon.”

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/celtic-signing-kwon-lifts-lid-213000520.html

Kwon had a stellar debut against Wolverhampton. YHJ also made his debut that day. It led to reviews like this:

Yang Hyun-Jun impressed with the limited time he had on the field, and very much reminds me of Liel Abada when he first came to the club. Quick, direct and not afraid to have a pop at goal from distance, but still quite raw.

Kwon Hyeok-Kyu on the other hand looked slightly more assured in his play and excited me more due to our lack of a player like Kwon in the defensive midfield position. At six foot two, Kwon effortlessly intercepted multiple Wolves passes in that number six position. His strength in the tackle is another positive in what was an impressive cameo from the South Korean u23 international.

However, the South Korean’s pace is something that surprised me a great deal. With his height, a lack of pace would have been something he would have been forgiven for, but Kwon effortlessly moved across the pitch and chased down Wolves players with ease.

Pace, strength and physicality are all exciting attributes that we have not seen in a Celtic number six in a long time, possibly Victor Wanyama being the last Celtic player to come close to that description.

Both Yang and Kwon look exciting talents, with the latter a player I feel will have a surprisingly big role to play in the upcoming season.

https://thecelticstar.com/yang-looks-exciting-but-kwon-could-be-a-terrific-find/amp/

He then started the match against against Athletic Bilbao. That game was surely one to forget for him. I watched the entire game, and although his teammates Tomoki and Hatate were definitely worse (they BOTH gifted the ball to the opponent leading to goals), Kwon also admittedly did not play very well. He will need some time to adapt for sure, but he surely has all the tools needed to succeed as a genuinely good defensive midfielder. A position that the KNT SORELY lacks.

Kwon was an unused substitute alongside Oh Hyeon Gyu in Celtic’s league opener. Only Yang Hyun Jun got minutes.

4 Koreans on the pitch at the same time?!?!! Craziness

Overall, I have a lot of hope for the Celtic boys – they’re all 21-22 years old, look very promising, and are playing for a truly top team. All three of these guys will play key roles for the national team going forward.

Cho Gue Sung @ Midtjylland

A real pleasant surprise of the early season so far is Cho Gue Sung’s crazy form in Denmark. He already has 3 goals in 3 league matches!

https://twitter.com/choguesungfc/status/1688218689676488704?t=_YGOMS0q0kphLo8VSuulBQ&s=19

This is an extremely welcome development as Cho Gue Sung is a key CF for the national team. I also hope that this will encourage more players from the K League to make the move to Denmark. This guy is gonna bag double digits this season for sure. As I wrote before, I knew the Denmark move was a better idea than going straight to the Bundesliga in the winter.

Hwang Ui Jo @ Nottingham Forest

Another plot twist this preseason has been Hwang Ui Jo actually getting minutes at Nottingham Forest. Who would’ve thought? After a fairly quiet spell at FC Seoul, Hwang started many of Forest’s preseason matches. And in true Hwang Ui Jo fashion, he has blown hot and cold. He scored a goal at the beginning of preseason, but at the end of it, he passed the ball to the opposition, gifting them a goal. It is also notable that he has usually started out wide for the team rather than as the center forward. Not too surprising that Hwang Ui Jo’s physicality is not one of his strengths – he crumples to physical challenges easier than either Cho Gue Sung or Oh Hyeon Gyu.

Prediction: He’ll get minutes here and there but Hwang Ui Jo’s form is so mercurial that you really never know whether he’ll bang in insane goals or play like he did in the World Cup (and for most of his time at FC Seoul). I really have no idea what lies in store for him but I figure he’ll be used as a sub most of Forest’s games. Hopefully he can get starting XI minutes in cup matches.

Kim Ji Soo @ Brentford

Kim Ji Soo is the rising CB talent in our KPA ranks – the 18 year old impressed at the U20 WC, earning a transfer to Brentford. He is expected to play mostly for the B team, however he impressed in preseason with two appearances for the first team. With clean touches and excellent tackles, he hardly put in a wrong foot and is earning high praise from fans and the manager alike. Brentford has an established starting XI at the moment but should any of their starting CBs transfer out, I expect Kim Ji Soo to be quickly promoted.

Prediction: I genuinely believe Kim Ji Soo will break into the first team and get Premier League minutes faster than expected. I hope he gets at least one PL game by the end of the season.

Hong Hyeon Seok @ Gent

Hong is chugging along with Belgian heavyweights KAA Gent as usual. They bagged 2 wins in 2 games in the league so far and have effortlessly gotten to the third round of UEFA Conference League qualifying where in the first leg they defeated Polist team Pogoń Szczecin 5-0. This means that we may see Son, Hong, and Cho Gue Sung all in the UEFA Conference League this year, although Midtjylland did unfortunately lose 1-0 in their first game of the 3rd qualifying round.

Just a fun figure of Belgian league midfielders: fitting of an attacking midfielder, most of Hong’s passes do lead to shots.

Prediction: tidy and assured on the ball as always, expect more of the same compared to last season. And hopefully he’ll earn military exemption and make a transfer to a bigger league some day.

Lee Jae Sung @ Mainz

Lee Jae Sung played in the last two preseason matches for Mainz. In his first game back from injury he scored, in his second game he assisted vs Burnley.

There was speculation that he would transfer elsewhere but he chose to renew until 2026. He’s 31 and has established himself as one of Mainz’s best players. I think this was the right call, and I expect the same consistent, quality performances just like last season.

Jung Woo Young @ Stuttgart

Out of favor at Freiburg, JWY transferred this summer to Stuttgart where he now wears the #10 jersey and plays alongside several Japanese players. He should feature much more often this season. But the most important thing for him will be the upcoming Asian Games.

Lee Hyun Ju @ Wiesbaden

Wanted to give a quick shoutout to Bayern loanee Lee Hyun Ju who is doing quite well in the 2. Bundesliga. He is quite an interesting prospect in the attacking midfield department for us.

Kim Min Su @ Girona

Also wanted to give a shout out to Kim Min Su, a 17 year old winger (born in 2006) who has impressed in his outings for Girona’s first team with several goals to his name. Just watch these highlights. You wouldn’t be able to tell that he’s just 17, he looks like he’s a fully integrated part of the first team. It’s uncertain if he’ll get any La Liga minutes this season but he is considered one of Girona B’s crown jewels and maybe even will get a few minutes at the end of the season.

About Jinseok 259 Articles
Diehard Korean football fan. https://www.taegukwarriors.com/jinseoks-story/

6 Comments

    • i have no issues with that. Hwang In Beom specifically just isn’t a Bundesliga type of player. I would love for more Koreans to transfer to Germany.

  1. Better axe Park Ji-soo from the squad and replace him with KYK or that Brentford kid. The guy is both stupid and quite frankly, a loser for moving to the chinese league for the money early in his career. Also, I would like to see Cho as the main striker for the NT.

    Kwon Hyuk Kyu could be our main DM in the future alongside JWY.

  2. You missed Marvin Park (Real Madrid on loan to UD Las Palmas), the fastest Korean player, having been measured 35,2 km/hour this season.

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