New Year’s roundup (update 2.0) + Transfer guide

Happy 2014 and New Year’s Day!  Surprise: Ji Dong-Won and Ki Sung-Yeung playing together on the pitch today!?  Holy Judas Priest – it’s the Tavern New Year’s Roundup -and later the January Tavern Transfer Guide. If you’re a lazy scout for a top flight club looking around for fantastic top notch hard working players (who happen to be Korean), look no further.

Yes, the Tavern is still here, 2nd year in operation, somehow still intact despite all the dangerous fireworks being set off in the back. Another year in the bag. I’m not a fan of the word blessed, so I looked up the thesaurus, and lo and behold, revered emerged. I revere my Tavern writers, Jae Chee and Jinseok Yang (who I understand is coming up with a new update on the Korean youth players beasting it up in Europe). I revere you, Tavern goers, for stopping by and giving a damn. It’s a niche thing really, writing about Korean football in English, but I suspect within the Korean diaspora, there are more out there that would like to have more information and connection to what’s happening, but for one reason or another may not know about the forums or about the Tavern. Still, all you readers give us a reason to continue to operate the good ship Tavern. Hair of the dog: I still have more drunken toasts to say, but I’ll save that for later. To the roundup!

New Year’s Day Results
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Tavern points (and Jae probably will join in with his insights later):

  • First Ki and Kimbo playing against each other last weekend, now this: Ki and Ji playing alongside each other again?  It hasn’t happened since…October 5th against Manchester United, a 2-1 loss at home in the Stadium of Light. Quite a surprise, evidenced by Rachel Hur’s excited tweet:


  • Gus Poyet told the press that Ji, who hasn’t seen action in several months, ‘looks like an interesting striker’.  Did he get the start due to the heavy rotation needs of the festive schedule? Interested in seeing how Ji would do because of Borrussia Dortmund’s interest? For whatever reason, Ji was given the green light to start. Lets go to ESPNFC for a moment to describe some of the 1st half:

[Poyet] stuck to his favoured 4-1-4-1 formation with Ji lining up on the right side of midfield and Steven Fletcher operating as a lone striker, and the initial signs were positive.  Emanuele Giaccherini dragged a sixth-minute shot from distance just wide and Fletcher…could have broken the deadlock two minutes later, but steered his effort past the far post…Ji, who famously scored a New Year’s Day winner against Manchester City at the Stadium of Light two years ago, passed up an opportunity to repeat the feat when he blazed high and wide at the far post with nine minutes gone.

But all the good work was undone on the quarter-hour when Black Cats skipper Cattermole miscontrolled Valentin Roberge’s pass and allowed Agbonlahor to round keeper Vito Mannone and walk the ball into the empty net.”

As demoralizing as that giveaway by Cattermole was, Sunderland still looked the brighter team. A few minutes later, Ki dribbled into the area, threaded a neat pass to Ji near the box – who immediately passed to Colback in a great position to score. Unlike his last minute equalizer against the Bluebirds, his shot deflected harmlessly out of the way. Sunderland kept up the attack.

Ki’s shot forced a save by Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan.  Ji had a fantastic chance to equalize right before break, but Christian Benteke threw himself into the shot to save the day for Aston Villa.  By HT, Ji and Ki looked like they were getting into good and dangerous positions, passed effectively and contributed to Sunderland’s 65% possession rate. It seemed like Sunderland were bound to score entering the 2nd half.

Jae jumping in here. I only watched the 1st half, so I’ll limit my observations to that. Like pretty much everyone, I was surprised that Ji got a start. It certainly seemed like he was as good as gone in January, and so his start he could be a sign that Poyet wants to see what he can offer in light of a struggling Altidore, or it could be a final showcase to get other offers in. Either way, it was nice to see Ji on the pitch.

I thought Ki was probably Sunderland’s best player overall. He was neat and tidy as always, and I was pleased to see him venture forward more. His diagonal ball to, I think it was Ji, was great even though Ji couldn’t get to it. I’d like to see Ki exploit his full range of passing more ala Xabi Alonso or Andrea Pirlo. Ki has the ability to be a complete midfielder, but whether by instruction or natural instinct he rarely seems to use his full potential. Ji on the other hand, wasn’t terrible. But either because of lack of playing time or nerves, he seemed a little edgy. He worked hard for sure, but it seemed a bit aimless. A lot of chasing. I don’t think Poyet has really figured out how he wants to use Ji (assuming he stays).

2nd half – Cattermole was punished by Poyet for the giveaway goal, replaced by Borini. Problems emerged, as Cattermole’s absence forced Ki to play deeper -then there was Ji, who didn’t seem as confident or as effective as his first half. His passing was certainly not as crisp. A bizarre reaction by Ji to what looked like a routine foul on him by an Aston Villa player (can’t remember who) – Ji took quite a bit of exception to the foul. Ki inserted himself in the tussle and pushed the player around, sparking some needless bantering, but wasted time essentially. Later, Ki was elbowed in the face by Agbonlahor while in a chase for the ball, leading to a bizarre confrontation by Ki. For his interrogation of Agbonlahor, Ki was given a yellow card. Ji went off in 67th minute for Jozy Altidore to polite but definite applause from the hard working folks at Sunderland -who appreciated Ji’s efforts, even if he did fade a bit in the 2nd.  Ki kept on the good fight, came close to the equalizer himself with a quality shot from 20 yards out. In the end, no equalizer could be found. It was a disappointing loss, given the way the lone goal was gifted. If there was a plus for Ji -Fletcher and Altidore had some less than stellar finishing throughout the match.  Sunderland remains in last place, but somehow within a manageable 4 points of safety. Still, there is zero margin for error – Cattermole’s mistake may prove costly for the Blackcats.

  • At the same time Sunderland was battling away, Cardiff City had heads held up high despite the turmoil engulfing the club with Malky Mackaye’s departure. ‘Crazy’ still owns the club, and he brought in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to sit with him in the stands. If he ignores Sir Alex Ferguson’s advice (when you’re choosing jobs, choose your owners carefully, or something like that) he will be the newest victim manager for Cardiff City (credit to the Guardian for that last punchline). I was trying to multi-task and watch both matches. Inevitably the Sunderland v AS game took more of my attention, as multi-tasking proved too difficult (1st world problems really). CC admirably held Arsenal at bay, and it looked like they could play the Gunners to a scoreless draw away at the Emirates. Alas, 2 very late conceded goals, (88′ Bendtner and 90+2′ Walcott) gave the game away. Kimbo started. I saw him make a 20 yard shot, too far over the crossbar. Otherwise he seemed to play a more defensive role, mostly marking Sagna. When they were on offense, it looked like he was on the left wing, rather than central mid.
  • Leading to the next point -no Park Chu-Young, not in the 18 man roster despite all the injuries besetting Arsenal lately. Bendtner was inserted late in the match -the much maligned striker proved to be the hero, scoring the game winner right before regulation time was up. But just his luck, the rehabilitated hero was injured in the very incident he scored on, crashing into David Marshall and sustaining an ankle injury. BBC Sports has reported that Bendtner looks to be out for several weeks in recovery.  So many injuries including Ozil and Giroud out, Wenger may have to utilize Park —-maybe. As Jae mentioned earlier from a interview Wenger did with a Korean media outfit, Park isn’t in his plans and presumably Park is waiting to transfer out in the January window. Still, Wenger did use Park’s services for the last 10 minutes of a League Cup match against Chelsea in late November.  He performed quite adequately, especially given the lack of minutes this fall. In fact, it didn’t look like he had a layoff – he linked up well with Ozil and the rest of the gunners on the pitch that day. This Saturday, Arsenal faces the Spurs in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. Will Park see one more game in Arsenal uniform before leaving North London for a more French setting?  Stay tuned…
  • Lee Chung-Yong has had a spell of several matches in which he’s had great opportunities to score for Bolton, only to miss in several non-fantastical ways. This game was no exception. Will the Double Dragon be able to fine tune his finishing in the new year?
  • Not sure what Yun Suk-Young’s status is with Doncaster.  His loan spell is now up. To paraphrase the Clash: Will he stay or will he go (back to QPR?)


THE 2014 January Tavern TrAnSfEr gUiDe!  [a work in progress – we’ll look to repost this with updates].

Park Chu-Young: He was a formidable scoring machine and captain for the Taeguk Warriors for several years, but has been through a rough patch, beginning with his surprise signing in August 2011 to Arsenal. Though the forgotten Arsenal man didn’t play but for a few minutes for his new team in the 2011-2012 season, he was handpicked by Hong Myong-Bo, then coach of the Taeguk Warrior Olympic squad, and scored memorable (and sick) goals against Switzerland and Japan -including getting covered by 4 Japanese players and STILL managed to SCORE!  Park was instrumental in the team winning it’s first Olympic medal, and because of that shiny bronze around his neck, he doesn’t have to serve in the Korean military (of course he didn’t have to serve anyway due to his residence in Monaco but another story for another time). He was the first Korean to score in La Liga last season while on loan to Celta Vigo. A diamond in the rough, if the right team can utilize him properly, and if he can find his mojo again, he can be as effective as he was in scoring double digits for AS Monaco during the 2010-2011 season.  Several Ligue 1 teams have expressed interest in Park. One that hasn’t been mentioned (but could be lurking in the negotiations) is AS Monaco, his former team.

Yun Suk-Young: Left back for QPR, was on loan to Doncaster (which just ended). Before getting injured in a freak training accident, the former Chunnam Dragon’s defender looked fast and sharp for Doncaster.  Harry Redknapp doesn’t seem interested in playing Yun – Harry’s loss could be another club’s gain.

Koo Ja-Choel: midfielder for Wolfsburg, he hasn’t seemed as comfortable in playing in a deep midfield role. Augsburg and Mainz are reportedly in negotiations for Koo, but Wolfsburg has in public rejected the idea of selling Koo. Still, according to the Augsburg local press, there’s some evidence that there may yet be a deal. No confirmations as of yet, so transfer news wise, we are in a state of flux on Koo.

Ji Dong-Won: we’re still awaiting word, but one report indicates that Eintracht Frankfurt has dropped their pursuit of Ji, scratch that, Eintracht Frankfurt hasn’t given up on Ji -but presumably Borussia Dortmund is still in the front of the pack to secure his services (caution: not confirmed -but several Korean media sources seem to give some credence to this as a distinct possibility).  A number of Bundesliga clubs know of Ji as “Korean Jesus 2.0” (to borrow the phrase from BSK forum) for his efforts in staving off relegation in Augsburg last season on loan from Sunderland. BVB nearly had a deal for Ji last summer, but Sunderland turned it down. The Blackcats have less than a year on his contract – this January could be Ji’s ticket back to Germany.

Kim Shin-Wook: the Andy Carrol of Korean football? That might be a tad bit harsh as Kim was the highest scoring Korean in the K-League last season (I think? I’ll check later), scoring 19 goals and an improved ground game.  He’s denied rumours of a link to CSKA Moscow and Spartak, but will he be in a Ulsan Hyundai uniform when the K-League starts up again in March?

Han Kook-Young: I’ll just refer you to Korea Football News –


[From ESPNFC’s Chris Atkins,10 players clubs should sign] Kim Young-Gwon — Guangzhou Evergrande

Chris Atkins: “There are few better judges of a player than Italian World Cup-winning manager Marcello Lippi. So when the now China-based veteran proclaims that a defender is “good enough to play for Manchester United,” they are worth taking seriously. Kim was sensational in 2013, helping his side to a first AFC Champions League title and fourth place in the Club World Cup, where he was an outstanding performer. The South Korean, 23, is an excellent reader of the game, spotting danger before it develops, and is strong in the air for a player who is unexceptional physically. He would be a fantastic signing for many European sides, but persuading cash-rich Evergrande to sell could be problematic.”

Already transferred: Ryu Seung-Woo to Bayer Leverkusen. Jeju United has loaned him for a year.  Double the Koreans in your squad / double your fun.

Korean Footballers Abroad blog has their take on Transfer prospects this January + a look ahead to the weekend and FA Cup fixtures.


Drunken musings:

The Tavern has been a fantastic experiment. How long it goes, it’s hard to say. It has in the past taken a toll on my family life, but this past year an incredibly huge thanks goes to Jae, he’s been so on top of things, week in and week out with listings and roundups — honestly I would’ve pulled out my hair if it weren’t for him.  Doing podcasts with both Jae and Jinseok have been really fun and revelatory, expanding the scope of the Tavern to make it, more 3D for a lack of a better term.

I see an end to my time at the Tavern at some point however. I just sense it. It doesn’t mean I’m abandoning the Tavern.  I’m definitely in it for the World Cup and all the madness surrounding it. You know I’m not missing that party. But life is about change, about moving and migrating. My kids need me. My family needs me. If the Tavern is around for the next World Cup cycle leading to 2018, it will have to adapt and change – and all the adventures and misadventures will have to be experienced without me, the old Tavern Owner behind the proverbial bar. Still, I’ll always be Taeguk Warrior 4 life / bleed red ’till I die (um, I’ll have to invent a new gang sign – that’s my cue that I’m missing). But it’s 1:12 AM in the morning and I have to get up in 5 hours for work. I’m still here, and I’ll be serving drinks at the Tavern for the foreseeable future.  See you tomorrow.


Update: Jae just posted that he’s going to be on break shortly. The readership support we’ve received this year at the Tavern this year could NOT have been possible without Jae. Absolutely class writer – I am really blown away that he came in to join the Tavern in the first place. 2013, the Tavern was Jae’s baby – I’ll say it right here and right now. Come back soon from vacation and safe travels.

Just to clarify, Tavern is not going down, not going away. My own involvement will gradually wind down, but not for a while. World Cup 2014 – like I said, not going to miss that party.

Final note, I’m super stoked to get my ‘one last article’ published -and Jae contributed to this as well.  Last spring I was fortunate to get 2 articles into the NYT Goals section, but before I could submit my ‘ultimate Korean footy article’, the NYT Goals section shut down and my link to them dried up.  I will post about this soon (probably Friday am), but I want to give Jae’s post some time to be the top header. In the meantime, you can check out In Bed with Maradona, and if you are unaware of them, it’s a neat ‘hipster’ football online publication. I’ll elaborate more on the contents of said article, but there’s a wealth of future Tavern posts to give more context and fullness to the IBWM article. I’ll give you a preview of posts to come: I had a sit down interview with Kim Bo-Kyung…and I’ll have to keep you hanging on that…

About Roy Ghim 454 Articles
The old Tavern Owner


  1. Roy, you will always be held in the highest regard in the Tavern. I know a lot of people that don’t believe in the bright future of Korean football; they don’t know what they’re talking about. Not even the writers at Bleacher Report. I truly believe Lee Seung-Woo can become the next Messi, he has TONS of potential. I’m glad to see that you, Jae, and Jinseok have all committed to keeping us informed with Korea’s role in football. Especially with all of the articles about the Champions League, CR7 gossip, etc…My father told me about how a lot of Red Devils didn’t know about the offside rule during 2002…but times are really changing.

    • Thanks Jeremy! Right on, you know I can get pessimistic at times, but there are a ton of factors that ebb and flow with the overall picture and progress of Korean football – and evidence is in showing reason for optimism. It’s a long term thing, really. But when I see Lee Kang-In and Lee Seung-Woo over in Spain – Ryu over in Germany now, “Kiu” fighting to get on the first team in Almeria, and others not in the spotlight but have great/raw potential, the KFA got something right in trying to get more kids to take the European challenge to improve – all future forward thinking. The youth development programs in Korea look promising -evidenced by the U16 – U20 good results in tournaments recently. As you say, times really are changing- for the better in many regards. Dae Han Min Guk 2014

  2. Hey Roy
    David from Australia. Stumbled On your site recently (there was another one some time ago I used to read called foot korean that shut down). Understand the pressures re family and work etc so just saying I appreciate the time you and the others take to keep this site up.

    • Thanks David! I’m stoked that people from all over the diaspora are responding to the Tavern so positively. I have to tell you, I get some secret joy seeing the WordPress stats that show all the different people from all sorts of different countries around the world coming to the Tavern. Dae Han Min Guk Worldwide ya’ll. How is life in Australia for you? Is there a sizable Korean-Australian population there?

      • Hey Roy
        thanks for the reply. Mate, there is a large Korean/Australian population here in Australia. Sydney’s is especially large. I consider it like it is the LA of Australia. There are heaps of followers around WC time (mostly fobs but this is now changing). However, I live in little Adelaide. Football (and Korean football) has been a passion of mine since I was a kid as I was born and lived some years in Spain. I came across this site as I was (and am) closely following Kangin Lee and the Barca boys.

        Like you, I’m tied up with family/work commitments otherwise I’d love to contribute. There have been a few Koreans who have played in Oz. My earliest memory is of Kim Pan Keun at Marconi Stallions and a bloke (Kim Dong Jin? can’t remember his name) playing for Adelaide City in the old National Soccer League. More recently we’ve had mediocre K-League players with the exception of maybe Shin Tae Yong) come and play in the A-League with mixed success. Obviously our boy Ki has connections with Brisbane as well. Anyway, I’ve rambled on. Dae Han Min Guk all the way and thanks again for your efforts with this blog.

        • Right on! Yeah, Ki I understand got some very good instruction from a coach in Australia (I can’t think of the name but came across some article a while back). Kang In and the Barca boys — man, I’m very excited about them. No guarantees in life -and I don’t want to put added pressure on them, but they have huge potential…

  3. Hey writers,
    I discovered your website and this website was my portal to Korean football in English. Being a Korean in North America and not a very good Hangeul speaker, as well as HUGE footy fan, this website got me back into the ring of Korean football. Many thanks to you for the site and I appreciate the efforts put into this wonderful site!


    • Thanks a lot Tim! I’m right there with you -I’m not very good at Hangulmal myself -and part of the experiment of the Tavern is getting info (that’s digestible to me and others) about the latest in Korean football developments.

      Then again, it makes me a bit more motivated to learn hangukmal – if nothing else,maybe I can someday read some of the latest Korean media football articles. Something to add to 2014’s resolution…

  4. Hey Tavern writers,
    I’m Daniel a korean-american college student here in the states. I just want to say I read this blog every week and love all the work you do! Keep it up and have a blessed New Year!

  5. Enjoy your break! Looking forward to your return when you are refreshed & ready! Btw, great IBWM article & read. Have always wanted Korea to follow the example of Israel regarding the conscription issue.

    • Thanks Takeuchi! I think Israel (while I have grave concerns with their handling of human rights issues regarding the occupied Palestinians) does have a template that could be borrowed by Korea when it comes to balancing nat’l security needs and advancing their football program. but I’ll have more to say on that later…

  6. I’ve been KNT fan since the 1994 World Cup here in the US. I can read Korean, but it’s time consuming and rough to do that. Like you guys, I’ve had to go through various sites to find out info about players and go through youtube to check out clips of the youngsters in Spain, etc. I stumbled onto this website 2 or 3 months ago and it was exactly what I’ve been missing. Even though I’ve more been a lurker, it’s not just a place for info, but to hear more in depth going-on’s and opinions. It’s a tavern! Although, I think it would’ve sounded cooler as a pub. Either way, I really appreciate everyone’s work here and hope you keep going strong.

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