Who Could Be the Next Manager of the KNT?

It’s that time of the year again. The witch is dead, the bad man is gone. For the umpteenth time, here are a list of candidates that could take over a national team in crisis with two difficult World Cup qualifiers remaining.


The KFA hasn’t yet identified what contract length it is thinking of. Some suggest a 5-year contract, which would take the team through the next 2 World Cups, while others suggest a 2-year contract, which would take the team through the qualifiers and the next World Cup. The most popular option seems to be a short-term contract for the next two qualifiers.

The general consensus is that the next manager has to be Korean – somebody who knows the players and won’t have a steep learning curve. For the basis of this post, we are operating under the notion that the team needs a boss for those qualifiers.

Personally, I think the team should appoint a boss for the next two games and then re-evaluate the situation, with foreign managers in the mix. There’s a huge difference between building for 2022 and building for 2018.

So without further ado…

The three favourites

Huh Jung-moo

The apparent front-runner. The 62 year-old has been a longtime servant of the Korean national team, with 101 caps as a player and numerous stints in various managerial positions, including being the country’s manager between 1998-2000 (when he gave way for Guus Hiddink) and 2008-2010. His second turn in charge saw the national team get through qualifying with 27 wins without a loss, earning Huh the 2009 AFC Coach of the Year Award. And he of course oversaw the last “successful” World Cup, when the Park Ji-sung-led Koreans made it to the Round of 16 on foreign soil for the first time. However, his role as a vice-president in the KFA saw him take responsibility after 2014’s abysmal World Cup performance and many in the commentariat still blame him for the slow decline of Korean football.

Pros: Experienced, has had World Cup & qualifying success

Cons: Out of a job (on his own volition) since 2012, overrated?, part of a broken KFA administration

Likelihood: Given former technical director Lee Yong-soo’s parting suggestions (domestic, WCQ experience), the probable candidate for the job.

Shin Tae-yong

We know all about Shin. The 46 year-old one-club man (at Seongnam) spearheaded the old Ilwha Chunma to an Asian Champions League in his first year before making the jump in 2014 to the national team set-up as a caretaker following Hong Myung-bo’s resignation. Promoted to assistant manager under Uli Stielike, Shin left twice, reportedly frustrated by Stielike’s controlling coaching style, to coach the Olympic and U-20 teams, where his teams qualified past the group stages but fell at the first time of asking in the knockout stages.

Pros: Young, charismatic, kept up with the modern game, knows the players, respected

Cons: Too much of a tactical tinkerman, also feels like way too much of a Hong Myung-bo 2.0 situation, no?

Likelihood: The KNT job is probably still there for Shin if he wants it one day. But the U-2o team’s underwhelming result and the KFA’s wish not to ruin Shin’s career so quickly with this “poisoned chalice” probably means he’s Plan B or C. Possible, but unlikely.

Jeong Hae-seong

The third and final serious candidate for the job, Jeong led the list of domestic options when the KFA was appointing a successor to Hong. A coach at both of Korea’s successful World Cups (2002 and 2010), Jeong was only recently appointed assistant manager of the team by the Technical Committee, in order to give “tactical guidance” to Stielike, among other things. Reports from the team’s training camp (and the pro-Jeong journalists) say that Jeong had a good impression with the players and was well respected, reportedly “more than Stielike could imagine”.

Pros: Associated with success, doesn’t carry any baggage, already has had some time with the team

Cons: Little top-job managerial experience, otherwise mostly just unknown

Likelihood: The wild card.  Huh is the KFA’s pick, Shin is a popular fan choice. The former hasn’t coached for 5 years, the latter might not get immediate results the way a manager who’s just been on the ground has. If the KFA wants a quick pick for the 2 remaining qualifiers, he might be the man. Possible – depends on what the KFA is hiring for.

Outside candidates:

Kim Ho-gon

The 2012 Asian Coach of the Year, Kim earned his stripes as manager of an Ulsan Hyundai side that included Kwak Tae-hwi & Lee Keun-ho which won the AFC Champions League. In 2014, he was appointed vice-chairman at the KFA following the World Cup exit.

Pros: Experienced

Cons: Little senior international experience.

Likelihood: More serious of a candidate than either Choi (below), but also more likely to be appointed technical director.

Choi Yong-soo

Former FC Seoul manager, just returned from China, Choi is out of a job and many think he should take over the team. Led Seoul to the K League championship in 2012, Choi was sacked by Jiangsu Suning earlier this year for poor results.

Pros: Fresh face, friend of the K League

Cons: No national team experience, also infamously leads teams who start slow and finish strong. Maybe not the best for our situation right now.

Likelihood: Highly unlikely.

Choi Kang-hee

Hey Korean media mentioned his name. Current Jeonbuk manager, he’s won trophies galore with this domestic time. Dragged unwillingly to the head of the national team to replace Cho Kwang-rae in 2013, Choi was hated by most Korean fans for his tactical ineptitude and leading the most uninspiring World Cup qualification campaign in recent memory.

Pros: Well, he did take the team past the World Cup qualifiers.

Cons: He won’t take the job, hated by everyone, public fall-out with several players.

Likelihood: Impossible.

Hong Myung-bo

Well, his name was mentioned in Korean media. Formerly Guus Hiddink’s understudy, took over the KNT after a successful Olympics stint, and one unsuccessful World Cup later he was decried (unfairly) by Korean media which saw him resign. He’s back on the job market after presiding over Hangzhou Greentown’s relegation in the CSL.

Pros: Previous international experience, knows the players, might want to redeem himself?

Cons: He won’t want the job, will he? Associated with 2014 and football’s decline in Korea, in a managerial slump.

Likelihood: Not happening.

About Tim Lee 321 Articles
The maple syrup guzzling kimchijjigae craving Korean-Canadian, eh?


  1. Thanks for the article, Tim!

    It’ll probably be Huh Jung-moo because everyone respects him and he’s readily available unlike the K league coaches in season. But I think Shin Tae-Yong would be the most interesting manager for KNT, maybe even worth the risk of HMB2.0. Choi Yong-Soo would be the next logical choice given his success in K-league and current situation after Jiangsu. Idk much about Jung Hae-Sung. But whoever is the next manager, I hope he decides on a system that fits the players he selects. KNT is talented enough on paper to get back to the top 16 in a world cup. They need someone who can get the most out of the players who’ve been severely underperforming. Also, I’m interested to see if Paik Seung-Ho will promoted to the senior team. KNT need creativity in the midfield. Cheers!

    • I think Lee Seungwoo will make the senior team before Paik Seungho. That’s just because Lee is a kind of player the team doesn’t have, whereas Paik doesn’t seem to have a definable position in the KNT right now…

      If we do make 2018, I’d still like to see both called up, but Lee as a super sub and Paik as a back-up option in case of injury. Both will learn from the experience and that will help them for 2022, when they will be the team’s poster boys.

      Huh Jung-moo is respected by the KFA, but a lot of fans are saying “remember 2014” when he resigned and took responsibility for the decline of Korean football. He’s made enemies. I remember reading somewhere that he’s the reason why Cha Bum-keun can’t get a position in the KFA. Also, it’s problematic to appoint a manager who 1) is just as stubborn, if not more so than Stielike and 2) hasn’t coached in 5 years. I get the impression you lose your managerial touch after 5 years.

      I’m leaning towards Shin Tae-yong or Jung Hae-sung as a “caretaker” and then a foreign coach hired regardless of whether we’ve qualified with a vision for 2022. 2018 will just be another World Cup… we’ll prepare for it and such, but no sackings, unless it’s horrific (ie 8-0 to Brazil or some crazy shit). The big project has got to be Qatar.

      The flaw is of course the cash. Does the KFA have the money to go abroad again? It’s up to us to put on the pressure.

  2. I would like Huh for the two qualifiers and then a foreign coach afterwards.

    If we go to the World Cup I hope we get an easy group lol. Imagine getting into a group of death.

    In 2014 we didn’t have that difficult of a group and we didn’t win a single game. A draw against Russia, we lost pretty badly to Algeria and against a 10 man Belgian team. So basically yeah i hope we don’t get into a difficult group.

    You know it’s great that people like Tim, Roy, Jinseok and others write for the Taeguk Warrior fans since i learn a lot about them by coming here.

    Thanks for the post Tim! Appreciated it!

  3. I say go big or go home. I say get a foreign coach. If we get a Korean national, I feel the players will not take the World Cup seriously and view this as a “temporary” pass. How sad for the player if we get a “half ass” coach instead of serious name.

    The odds are in Korea’s favor to make the World Cup, now the KFA must show strong commitment and not let this opportunity slip away. Firing Uli was the right thing, now we must continue and hire the right person.

    Just my opinion.

    • I don’t think the players aren’t taking this seriously. Ki Sung-yueng in particular has been taking on a lot of responsibility. I do think the players are burdened right now. Whether or not a new manager will remove some of that load and allow them to play at their full potential remains to be seen.

      I agree with the hiring of a foreign coach, but the dressing room just needs a friendly, reliable face right now. Especially with the two biggest performances needed. I maintain that any foreign coach should come after WCQs.

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