'The People's Rooney' will play in South Korea's top flight for the first time in his eight-year playing career after failing to break through in the German BundesligaNorth Korea international Jong Tae-Se on Thursday completed his move to Suwon Bluewings by signing a three-year contract.
The former Kawasaki Frontale striker, known popularly as The People's Rooney for his role on the North Korea national team, has spent the last two seasons in the Bundesliga at Bochum and Koln.
"I knew a lot of Korean clubs were interested in signing me while I was in Koln," Tae-Se told reporters at his introductory press conference. "But I chose Suwon as it was the club [fellow North Korea international] An Yong-Hak played for.
"I am very happy to join a club with such a rich history in Korea."
Born in Nagoya, Japan, Tae-Se began his professional career at Frontale in 2006. Despite having the potential to play for either South Korea or Japan, he chose to remain loyal to his North Korean heritage, famously shedding tears as his country's national anthem was played at the 2010 World Cup.
After playing against South Korean teams in both the Asian Champions League (ACL) and international competition, the 28-year-old will don the uniform of a South Korean club for the first time. In his first ACL campaign since 2010, Tae-Se will make his return to Japan on April 9 when Suwon visit Emperor's Cup-winning Kashiwa Reysol.
"If you look at Korean players active in Europe and Korean teams winning the ACL, we can see how competitive K-League Classic is," Tae-Se said, referring to South Korea's recently-renamed top flight. "Japan have a lot of players who are skillful and fast, while Korean players are also very physical. I am looking forward to my life in Korea."
Although the ace striker's K-League arrival has been met with scrutiny as a result of the delicate political situation between North and South Korea, he revealed that his most important supporter was in favor of the move.
"My mother's only interest is my happiness," Tae-Se replied when asked of his parents' opinions. "If I am happy playing football in Korea, she will be happy as well."