South Korea's appointment of Klinsmann successor accused of lacking transparency

By Trung Thu   March 1, 2024 | 04:05 pm PT
South Korea's appointment of Klinsmann successor accused of lacking transparency
Hwang Sun-hong, the new interim manager of South Korea national football team. Photo by KFA
South Korean media said the decision to appoint Hwang Sun-hong as interim national football manager was made unilaterally, rather than being a consensus decision by the National Team Committee.

The committee, consisting of 11 members, was tasked with selecting a new coach for the national team after sacking Jurgen Klinsmann after his failure at Asian Cup last month. Three meetings were held in February to make the final decision.

After the first meeting, the committee faced strong backlash for announcing it would appoint a coach in a K-League 1 club as the long-term manager. South Korean media and fans believed this would disrupt the country's premier football league, as clubs had just completed their preparation for the new season.

In the second meeting, the committee shifted direction and decided to appoint an interim coach for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers in March. The selection of candidates was expected in the third meeting. However, things did not go as planned.

Osen reported that the committee's chairman Chung Hae-seong overstepped his authority by unilaterally declaring Hwang Sun-hong as the interim manager.

"Members of the committee didn't agree with Chung's action] and argued back and forth," the newspaper quoted a source. "This means chairman Chung appointed Hwang without seeking the consensus of other members through a meeting."

At the press conference on Feb. 27, Chung stated that Hwang was the top choice and had accepted the offer after one day.

Previously, Hwang and Park Hang-seo were the leading candidates, along with Choi Yong-soo. Park and Choi met the criterion of not currently coaching any team, while Hwang met the other criterion, which is being under the management of the Korea Football Association (KFA).

Chairman Chung and Park worked together as assistants to coach Guus Hiddink on the South Korea national team in the 2002 World Cup, in which they made the semifinals. Later, Chung moved into another role within the KFA, while Park continued his coaching career.

In 2017, Park became the head coach of Vietnam and started a successful five-year journey with the team.

Chung also worked in Vietnam as the technical director of local club HAGL in 2018, then as the coach of HCMC FC from 2019-2020. However, sources suggested that their relationship went sour during their time in Vietnam.

The decision for Hwang to coach both the national and U23 team has faced criticism from South Korean media, especially when the U23 team are preparing to aim for the 2024 Paris Olympics through the U23 Asian Cup in Qatar in April.

Football site Four Four Two even suggested the worst-case scenario for South Korean football, with coach Hwang failing to lead the national team to victory over Thailand in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers and also missing out on Olympic qualification with the U23 team.

Chairman Chung responded by saying that he would take full responsibility if that happened.

"It's like asking a coach right before the season opener if he's ready to resign if the result is poor," Chung told the site.

Despite the opposition, many agree with the KFA's choice of the interim manager.

TV channel KBS argued that Hwang is the only one who regularly monitors the players and has a trustworthy relationship with both Son Heung-min and Lee Kang-in, two Korean top stars who made headlines for being caught in a brawl right before South Korea's Asian Cup exit after a semifinal loss to Jordan.

In addition, the U23 team has set up a reasonable management schedule, so it will not overlap with the national team's duties.

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