After being away from the K League for a while, the Tigers coach is back after six seasons. Kim “Hakbumson” Kim, 63, has taken the helm of Jeju United and is ready to ignite the franchise once again next season.
“We have appointed Kim Hak-bum as the 17th head coach,” Jeju announced on Friday. Jeju said, “Coach Kim interacts with the players, reads their minds, and creates a strong motivation for them to run towards a single goal of winning with a rotation of faith. Kim, who is constantly studying the flow of modern football, is the right person to further maximize the power of Jeju and lead the rebuilding process.”
Speaking to reporters on the same day, Kim said, “Others say I’m returning to the field after a long time, but I’ve been going around the field and watching matches. I can still analyze the opponent even now,” he chuckled.
Kim, who earned his doctorate in exercise physiology in 2006 with a thesis titled “Content Analysis of Soccer Training Methods Using the Delphi Method,” is widely known as a “studying coach.” He is one of the most prominent figures in Korean soccer. His ability to combine his experience with soccer theories and apply them to the field has earned him the nickname Hak Bum-son, a reference to former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.
After leaving the K League in 2017 as head coach of Gwangju FC, Kim took charge of the South Korean men’s under-23 national team and led them to a gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta-Palembang and an undefeated record at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship in January 2020, qualifying for their ninth consecutive Olympic Games. Although the team suffered a disappointing quarterfinal exit at the Tokyo Olympics the following year, he continued to travel to K League games to watch and analyze each team’s performances after stepping down as head coach.
“It’s another challenge for me,” said Kim, who is returning to the K League after six seasons. Challenges are always exciting. It’s because I’m excited that I can taste the challenge.”
Jeju, a corporate club, has always been considered a dark horse in recent years. Only Jeonbuk Hyundai and Ulsan Hyundai spent more on player salaries than Jeju last year. However, the team’s performance hasn’t lived up to expectations. Since 2017, when they finished second, Jeju has never finished in the top three in the K League 1. In 2019, they finished last and were relegated.
When asked what Jeju looked like from the outside, Kim summed it up by saying, “I always felt like we were 2% short.” “Honestly, I thought it was strange,” Kim said. They have a good composition of players and seem to have a lot of potential, but they always finish below expectations, so I was curious about the situation.” “Now that I’m the coach and I’m going in (to Jeju), I’ll take a look at what problems there were, and if there are any, I’ll tear them down and fix them,” he emphasized. On the soccer side of things, he said, “I saw a lack of cohesion throughout the game. Tactically, there were a lot of scenes where we had a problem in one place and when we fixed it, we had a problem in another place,” he said, adding that the biggest challenge is to keep the team together.
“I’m looking forward to seeing all the Jeju players. Jeju is a team that deserves to be challenged,” said Kim, who is not shy about his future goals, “I’ve always played with the goal of winning, no matter what team I’ve been on.” Hakbumson’s eyes are already on next year.