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Hwang Inbeom, Lee Myungjoo, Joo Sejong Highlight Talented Group Heading to Asan

An extremely talented group of players will be heading to Asan Mugunghwa to complete their compulsory military service in 2018. Daejeon Citizen prodigy Hwang Inbeom, and FC Seoul regulars Lee Myungjoo and Joo Sejong highlight the list, but there is talent throughout. Should Asan fail to secure promotion through the playoffs this year, they will easily be odds on favorites to win K League Challenge next season based on these players alone.

If you're reading this and are unfamiliar with one of the more prominent quirks in K League, know that the military very literally has a presence in each league. As part of the mandatory military service for all Korean men, the KFA has allowed the army to form Sangju Sangmu and the national police to form Asan Mugunghwa as a way for Korean footballers to continue to play the game while they serve their military time. The only way a Korean pro can avoid playing for either of these teams is by earning a medal for the Korean National team in a competition. For example, Jeonbuk striker Kim Shinwook doesn't have to serve military time because he won gold for Korea in the 2014 Asian Games. However, his situation is far more the exception than the rule.

With the vast majority of Korean players eventually having to go to either of these teams, they have had some tremendously talented squads in the recent past. Sangju secured promotion from the second division in 2015 when they won K League Challenge, and had a exceptional season last year finishing in the Championship Round. Similarly the team now playing in Asan won the 2016 K League Challenge title... but wasn't allowed to be promoted because the club was relocating from Ansan. Quickly putting that heartbreak behind them, Asan are once again in the playoff picture in Challenge and may still earn promotion this year. Regardless of which division they are playing in next year, they have some truly talented players (specifically in the midfield) heading their way in 2018.

Goalkeepers

Choi Bongjin (Gwangju FC): Only in his fourth professional season, the 25-year-old has made 10 appearances for the last place club in Classic. In spite of being on a poor team, Choi has a 1.2 goals against in limited action and posted three clean sheets, including one against soon to be champions, Jeonbuk. Averaging close to 1,000 minutes in his previous three seasons, Choi looks to be a solid backup option to Asan incumbent Park Hyungsoon next year.

Yang Hyungmo (Suwon Samsung): A player that was in the third division National League finds himself on the move yet again in spite of starting 17 of Suwon Samsung's 38 matches in 2016. This season the 26-year-old keeper has fallen largely to bench duty with 12 goals conceded in just six appearances. This move is surely about completing his military duty, but may give some second division clubs a look at a keeper who will finish his conscription at just 28, plenty young for a keeper.

Defenders

Cho Beomseok (Bucheon 1995): Though he's listed as a defender, Cho has the ability to step forward and play in a defensive midfield role. A product of Incheon United, the 27-year-old moved to this year's FA Cup darling, Mokpo City back in 2012 and enjoyed four productive years there logging well over 2,000 minutes per season. The stretch was good enough for Bucheon 1995 to pick him up and have him make an appearance in each of their 36 matches last year. Though his minutes are down this season, he's still made 31 appearances for one of Challenge's better teams. He may not be a flashy name, but he'll likely do some important dirty work for Asan next season.

Kim Dongjin (Daegu FC): The 24-year-old defender played a big part of Daegu's 2016 promotion push with 35 starts and over 3,000 minutes logged, but has fallen off a bit in the first division this year. He's still made 21 appearances for the only club he's ever known, but his minutes are down significantly with only 1,600 logged as of Round 36. Moving to Asan at a young age may be a wise move as he attempts to get back into a regular starting position.

Kim Junsu (Jeonnam Dragons): A former regular with Pohang Steelers, Junsu has seen his game time rapidly decline with a defensively poor Jeonnam side this season. Though there's plenty of blame to be spread around, the Dragons conceded an astounding 20 goals in the nine matches Junsu started this year. Regardless of individual performances, that's a number that just doesn't look good on a defender. At 26 years of age and in someone of a downturn in his career, making the move to get his military service out of the way now is a smart one.

Lee Hansaem (Suwon FC): Something of a K League journeyman, Asan will be Hansaem's fifth team in seven years. After an ironman performance through 39 matches for Gangwon's successful playoff run last year, Lee fell on tough times this season and has been limited to just five starts. Coming off such a rough year and having recently turned 28, there's no better time than now for Lee to start his service years.

Kim Bongrae (Suwon FC): Currently on his second loan away from Jeju United, the 27-year-old has had a decent season for the solidly mid-table Suwon FC. Clearly unable to impress Jeju in his stints with Seoul E-Land and now Suwon FC in Challenge, moving to a military side makes sense. Much like the other defenders on this list, he likely won't light up the league, but provides solid depth for an already strong back line.

Midfielders

Hwang Inbeom (Daejeon Citizen): Perhaps the standout name on this list, the 21-year-old midfield maestro has chosen to start his military service far sooner than anyone expected. After starting all 35 of Daejeon's matches and scoring five times last season, Hwang has nearly kept pace this year with four goals in 31 appearances. What the goal totals hide is his incredible ability to read the game and lead his teammates into position with impeccable passes. In spite of the AFC U23 Championship coming up in China next year, Hwang seems to feel his chances with the Taeguk Warriors are farther down the road, in spite of playing with the U23s in a tournament in Vietnam earlier this year. He'll be putting his international career and rumors of a move to Europe aside by signing with Asan, but he will unquestionably make them an even stronger side next year.

Lee Myungjoo (FC Seoul): The 27-year-old FC Seoul midfielder returned to Korea from 2016 ACL runners-up Al Ain with the expressed intent of completing his service. The occasional national teamer had an excellent turn in the Middle East, and likely would have been welcomed back by one of the Arabian Gulf League's better sides for years to come. Unfortunately injuries have plagued his return to Korea, but when fit he dramatically changed the way Seoul played, proving to be the calm and capable midfield commander the team desperately needed.

Joo Sejong (FC Seoul): Much like Lee Myungjoo, Joo Sejong has been an influential midfielder for FC Seoul this season, but unlike his slightly older counterpart it's a bit surprising the 26-year-old is heading to Asan. By the end of the year, Joo will have logged 2,500 minutes in back to back seasons and has developed into a far better two way player than he was when he first arrived from Busan IPark. The move is especially surprising given Myungjoo's departure has always been expected and would ensure minutes for Joo again next season.

Kim Dohyuk (Incheon United): After staving off relegation for four seasons with Incheon, the 25-year-old midfielder has opted for a change of scenery. Coming off a standout 2016 season that saw him score three goals and log nearly 2,600 minutes from the midfield, 2017 has been a bit disappointing due to an injury that kept him out for the majority of the summer. With already considerable depth at Asan set to grow next season, this is a good rehab opportunity for Dohyuk as he won't be pressured to play more minutes than his body can handle.

Ahn Hyeonbeom (Jeju United): After making a bit of name for himself in 2016 with eight goals and over 2,000 minutes played, things have slowed at bit for the 22-year-old this season... but not much. He's still made 27 appearances for the 2nd place team in Classic and netted twice, one of which was a game winner. Perhaps the youngster feels there's a bit too much talent on Jeju and he needs to branch out to really make a name for himself? Unfortunately for him, the situation will look pretty similar in Asan next year.

Lim Changgyoon (Suwon FC): Except the 900 minutes he logged over two seasons in Classic, Lim has been a Challenge journeyman during the vast majority of his six year career. He started 2017 hot with three goals before May, but missed the entire month of June due to injury and never fully recovered. At 27, this seems like another "why not now?" move for a player that's already played for three different teams.

Forwards

Kim Sunmin (Daegu FC): Having started his career in Japan's J2 with Gainare Tottori, a bit more may have been expected of the young striker than 22 goals over seven years. His most productive year, and the one that earned him a spot back in K League, was his 11 goal season for 3rd division side Ulsan Dockyard Dolphins. Single season spells with Ulsan, Anyang, Daejeon, and Daegu have produced little since and so the 25-year-old heads to his seventh team in eight years to complete military duty.

Ko Mooyeol (Jeonbuk Hyundai): A longtime Pohang Steeler and former Young Player of the Year award winner, Ko likely joined Jeonbuk with eyes on another title. He's weeks away from achieving that dream, but has had to do so largely from the bench with just 600 minutes played this season, and unsurprisingly no goals. With FA Cup, K League, and even AFC Champions League medals already in his trophy room, now is as good a time as any for the 27-year-old to head off to Asan and hopefully get some more playing time.



What do you think? Is this the most talented group Asan (or even Sangju) has signed in recent years? Would you pick them to win Challenge next season? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below or join the conversation on Twitter

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