Kim Bo-Kyung, Koo Ja-Cheol & the five 'next big things' in Korean football

Ahead of the Taeguk Warriors' Olympic campaign and with some players set for transfers to England, takes a look at the brightest young talent emerging from the nation
By Yonghun Lee & Ben Somerford

The South Korean national team may have started brightly on the road to Brazil 2014 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, but there are few supporters who are convinced about the future of the Taeguk Warriors.

Nonetheless, the next few weeks mark a significant period for Korean football, with the next generation of stars set to compete at the London Olympics, while talents like Kim Bo-Kyung and Ki Sung-Yueng line up big transfers to England.

With another European club season not far away and with the K-League reaching its halfway point, take a look at the top five 'next big things' coming out of South Korea.

Jeju United, Central Defender, 22

Appearances 9
Goals 0
Assists 0
Senior club debut 20 years old
International appearances 14 (Senior), 13 (U-23)
Could move to FC Seoul

Hong was the captain of Korea's Olympic team before he suffered a knee injury which ruled him out of the 2012 London Games. With a reputation as a future key figure for the national team in the centre of defence, Korea will miss him. Fans have high expectations of him too, given Korea's lack of quality defenders. Prior to his injury, Hong was on the road to becoming the 'next Hong Myung-Bo'. The Jeju-born talent, who had a fine 2010 K-League season helping United finish runners-up, has already made more than a dozen senior appearances for his country.

Cerezo Osaka, Attacking Midfielder, 22

Appearances 18
Goals 9
Assists 4
Senior club debut 20 years old
International appearances 14 (Senior), 19 (U-23)
Could move to Cardiff, Celtic, Dortmund

Korea coach Choi Kang-Hee last month branded Kim the successor to the legendary Park Ji-Sung. The label would provide huge pressure for any player, but Kim has thrived in the national team in recent times, including two goals and two assists in World Cup qualifiers in June. Furthermore, he was the successor of Shinji Kagawa at Cerezo, so his potential is there for all to see. The 22-year-old, who can play as an attacking midfielder or a winger, appears on the verge of a move to Cardiff City, while he has also received interest from Borussia Dortmund and Celtic, both of whom won their respective leagues. After several years in Japan, there are high hopes among Korean fans for Kim's European career.

Augsburg, Central Midfielder, 23

Appearances 27
Goals 5
Assists 2
Senior club debut 18 years old (Jeju)
International appearances 27 (Senior), 8 (U23)
Could move to Recently signed new deal

Koo emerged as one of German club Augsburg's true heroes last season after joining on loan from Wolfsburg. The Chungbuk-born talent scored five goals to save the Bavarians from relegation and he has since chose to stay on for one more season on loan. The former Jeju United man has been compared to Frank Lampard as he can score while playing behind the front striker. He displayed his keen eye for goal in the 2011 Asian Cup as he became top scorer of the tournament. However, Koo's struggles at Wolfsburg hint that he likes to be the main man, and a small club like Augsburg is the ideal place for him to develop and mature.

Gwangju FC, Winger, 24

Appearances 19
Goals 1
Assists 8
Senior club debut 22 years old
International appearances 2 (Senior)
Could move to QPR

Lee is a late bloomer, having only emerged with Gwangju last term, but is a smart player who can use both feet very well. The University of Ulsan product was selected as the 2011 K-League Rookie of the Year after a fine campaign where he created plenty of goals thanks to his enterprise. Lee has already provided eight assists during the 2012 term, which is the most of any Korean player in the K-League at the halfway point. Lee's late progress is due partly to an ankle injury which he suffered in his early days, but he has now developed into a fine talent, with QPR reportedly showing interest in him.

Hamburg, Striker/Winger, 20

Appearances 30
Goals 5
Assists 0
Senior club debut 18 years old
International appearances 9 (Senior)
Could move to Newcastle

Among Korean supporters, 20-year-old Son is known as the 'super talent'. He dropped down the pecking order after Thorsten Fink took over as Hamburg boss last October, but when he was afforded a chance late in the season, he produced some vital performances to help his side avoid the drop. The youngster, who left Seoul to head to Germany as a 16-year-old, could be given a more major role next term following the departure of a few key members at HSV. Son is regarded as the hottest talent in Korea, but what he needs to do is begin to showcase his potential on a consistent basis.

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