‘Jeju 8th year’ Jeong Woon, “It’s inconvenient to live on land now… I thought I’d go to the national team at least once”
Jeong-woon 토토사이트(Jeju United), who left for Croatia on the edge of a cliff, lived in Europe for three years in 2016 tidy up and come back The team he chose was Jeju. There were suggestions from several teams, but I was attracted to Jeju’s soccer color, which was called ‘Citrus Taka’.
“I had thoughts of not coming in unless there was a team in Korea that wanted me. There were about three proposals, but in fact, the conditions were all the same. At the time, Jeju pursued the philosophy of ‘Citrus Taka’, and it was also fashionable. I decided that I would be able to have fun playing soccer in Jeju.”
Considering that he couldn’t play a single game at Ulsan Hyundai in 2012, it was a golden homecoming. His second K-League stage was a success. He showed off the skills he had accumulated in Croatia. In his first season, he recorded 1 goal and 5 assists in 32 league games, and was selected as the best eleven of the K League Classic (now K League 1).
“It was different from confidence. Playing in Croatia, he became stronger and more relaxed. In fact, he had nothing to fear, nothing to be afraid of. I think the secret to success in the first season is that I came to Korea without knowing anything and did what I wanted to do.”
Jeong-woon’s second K-League challenge was a success. Photo = Korea Professional Football Federation
As he established himself as the best left-sided defender in the league, public opinion was formed about his selection for the national team. At the time, the national team’s command tower was head coach Uli Stielike. However, Jeongwoon never wore the Taegeuk mark.
“At the time, I had regrets. I was very confident, and my personal performance was also good. I thought I would go once, but what can I do if I won’t be selected (laughs). It would have been fine if I had done exceptionally well, so I’m not blaming anyone. Now I have put down my greed for the national team, and I want my team to do well the most.”
Jeong-woon has lived in Jeju for 8 years. He lives a life no different from that of a native, such as using the Jeju dialect on his social network service (SNS). Jeong-woon himself thinks he has become closer to the people of Jeju. The expression ‘Land’ came out of his mouth naturally.
Jeong-woon feels that he has become a citizen of Jeju. Photo = Korea Professional Football Federation
“Seeing that life on land has become a little uncomfortable now, I think I am becoming a Jeju citizen. Sometimes, even when we have serious conversations, I often say, ‘If I have something to do in Jeju, I want to continue living there’. I don’t know what my future will be, but I like the people of Jeju and the city itself. I am that happy.”
“I can understand Jeju dialect to some extent. I have friends in Jeju, and I learn by watching them speak the dialect. Now, it has become a habit in our family to use dialect sometimes. I think it’s good because it’s fun to use the Jeju dialect.”
To the extent that he even uses the Jeju dialect, it goes without saying that he is attached to the team. Along with Lee Chang-min and Ahn Hyun-beom, who were motives for joining, he has been protecting Jeju for the longest time.
“When the team is having a hard time, that kind of responsibility seems to increase. After staying for a long time, I have a sense of mission and it feels like my team. Everything is good when it’s good, so it’s important to get through it well when it’s hard. At that time, long-standing players like (Lee) Chang-min and (Ahn) Hyeon-beom feel a sense of responsibility and try to do more.”
Jeong Woon witnessed Jeju’s relegation in 2019 on the spot. Photo = Korea Professional Football Federation
In May 2018, Jeong Woon left for the Gimpo Citizen Soccer Team to serve in the military. The following year, he won the best eleven in the K3 League as well. However, Jeju, the original team, suffered the bitter taste of relegation. Jeong-woon witnessed Jeju’s relegation on the spot.
“I think I was a bit selfish when I first came to Jeju. I wanted to show myself more, such as attack point greed or press exposure. But there was a reason this changed. I came to watch the match between Jeju and Suwon Samsung, and the relegation was confirmed that day. I came to cheer and was so shocked. It didn’t touch me, and the tears just flowed.”
Jeongwoon seemed to still have vivid memories of that day. Even as he talked, he paused and suppressed his emotions.
“Now that I think about it, it’s a little bit like that. Tears came out naturally. I was so shocked that I thought, ‘Why did I have to go through this? After that, coach Nam Ki-il took over and the team wanted to go in a good direction. I also felt that I had to do something to normalize it.”
Jeongwoon went out of his way to normalize the demoted team. Photo = Korea Professional Football Federation
Like he said, Jeongwoon really did anything. He even changed his position from wingback to central defender. He is 180 cm tall, not tall for a central defender. He focused on his strengths and trusted coach Nam Ki-il.
“If it wasn’t for the coach, I think he wouldn’t have changed his position. It was a position that he had never really played before, not when there were no players. The coach has already pursued leading football in the back 3-4 years ago. Since he prefers players who can handle the ball naturally, he seems to have trusted and appointed him. I also really enjoyed learning and growing up.”
That year, Jeju won the K-League 2 championship with overwhelming results. After a year of relegation, they returned to the K-League 1 stage. Jeong-woon also played in 24 out of 27 games and contributed to the league’s smallest loss. This time, he also earned a spot in the K League 2 Best Eleven. He also made a unique record of winning all of the K-League 1, 2, and 3 Best Eleven.
Jeong-woon accepted the position change offer, trusting manager Nam Ki-il. Photo = Korea Professional Football Federation
“It’s really ridiculous and really funny. I wasn’t a good player since I was young, and I didn’t have a championship uniform or mourning uniform. He was pushed out of the K-League and went through Croatia. I received the award given to one person in that position throughout the season in K1, 2, and 3.”
“Actually, I met my wife well. Sacrificing yourself so you can focus on your workout. When I retire, I have to repay you. Thanks to that, I was able to prepare well. Fortunately, I was well prepared and I think the opportunity came. It’s an amazing yet honorable record because I don’t think of myself as a great player.”
At the Jeju Clubhouse, there is a wall that pays homage to the club legend. When I asked Jungwoon what his goal was, he pointed to the wall.
“I see it every time I pass by, but the number of games I played the most was probably 198. I want to change that record. If I work hard, I think, ‘I could become the most played player on a team called Jeju’. In fact, I am working hard for only one goal.”
Currently, Jungwoon has played 173 K-League games in Jeju. It took him four years to make his K-League debut as he had to go through Croatia to overcome the ordeal of his first season as a pro. There was also his military service period and a shortened season due to Corona 19. Jeong-woon needs 26 games to pass 198 games. Unfortunately, there are 26 games left in Jeju this season.