South Korean media against appointment of interim coach to succeed Klinsmann

By Hieu Luong   February 28, 2024 | 03:18 pm PT
South Korean media against appointment of interim coach to succeed Klinsmann
Hwang Sun-hong will manage both the national team and U23 team of South Korea in the upcoming months. Photo by KFA
South Korean media have described appointing Hwang Sun-hong as interim manager of the national football team as a risky move because he’s already coaching the U23 team.

Hwang was selected over Park Hang-seo and Choi Yong-soo to become the interim manager of South Korea national team on Tuesday.

Appointing an interim manager will give the Korean Football Association (KFA) more time to find a long-term manager, which is expected to be completed by May.

Having a coach leading two national teams is not unfamiliar in football. In South Korea, the most recent coach to hold a similar double-posting was Pim Verbeek in 2007. However, with the U23 team competing for an Olympic qualification spot, South Korean media have opined that the dual role could lead to negative consequences.

Football site Four Four Two commented that if Park Hang-seo, the former celebrated Vietnam coach, were chosen as interim manager, things would be easier for both South Korean squads.

"KFA could have chosen an easier path but instead picked a difficult one and received a ticking time bomb. If the national team perform poorly against Thailand and the U23 team miss Olympic qualification, a greater disaster could befall South Korean football," an article on the site read.

Coach Hwang is currently leading the U23 South Korea to prepare for the 2024 U23 Asian Cup, which is also a qualifier for the 2024 Summer Olympics. The tournament will take place from April 15 to May 3 in Qatar. The journey will not be easy as the team are grouped with Japan, UAE, and China. Their goal is to finish in the top three to secure direct qualification to the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, or finish fourth for a playoff against the African squadron from Guinea.

Before that, the team will participate in the U23 West Asian Cup from March 18 to 26. That tourney will pit them against seven other teams, host Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, UAE, Thailand, Australia and Egypt. This overlaps with the national team's schedule for two matches in the 2026 World Cup second qualifying round against Thailand on March 21 and 26.

After being appointed, Hwang will coach the national team, while the U23 team will be managed by the assistant staff during the U23 West Asian Cup.

Star News Korea said KFA has forced coach Hwang to hold a "poisoned chalice." Meanwhile, Football List called KFA's decision a "gamble" as it pertains to Olympic qualification.

Meanwhile, SpoTV argued that "the federation is hindering the U23 team's preparations for Olympic qualification and creating a double burden for coach Hwang."

After being appointed as the interim manager, coach Hwang said he initially hesitated a bit but agreed to the challenge, believing he could help the struggling national team. Hwang also worried about the U23 team's preparations for the U23 Asian Cup but assured interested parties he was committed to close coordination with his assistants to achieve the best results.

Meanwhile, Chung Hae-seong, chairman of KFA’s National Team Committee, said he would take full responsibility if the teams do not perform well. However, South Korean media’s concerns were not assuaged.

"If South Korea fail to qualify for the Olympics, the responsibility is not solely on Chung Hae-seong's shoulders," Football List said. "The responsibility lies with all KFA members who influenced this appointment."

The National Team Committee is only an advisory department, while the decision-making power is from the leaders, headed by KFA chairman Chung Mong-gyu. However, the presence of the KFA chairman has been faint since the sacking of coach Jurgen Klinsmann after South Korea’s 2023 Asian Cup failure.

SpoTV argues that KFA must provide all necessary support to coach Hwang, but if they fail, KFA chairman Chung must take responsibility and resign.

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