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News: Choi Kyu-baek Joins Jeju United on Loan

Jeju United have brought in another defensive reinforcement with the signing of Choi Kyu-baek on loan from J League side V-Varen Nagasaki until the end of the season.  The move was made to provide depth for the center of the back line which has seen its share of struggles so far this year.  The good news is that he already has some K League experience under his belt, and should provide a boost to a unit which at times has lacked continuity in 2019.  KLU's Branko Belan has more.
(Photo via Jeju United)


Jeju United has had one of the most porous defenses in the K League this season, conceding 40 goals in 22 matches thus far, with Gyeongnam the only team to have allowed more to this point this campaign.  Injuries and inconsistent play have had a lot to do with it, and it prompted the move by the club to bring in Choi Kyu-baek on loan from  J League side V-Varen Nagasaki until the end of the season.

The 25 year old central defender stands at 188 centimeters and 77 kilograms and is physically strong.  He also has good ability to build play from the back for his team moving forward and his coverage skills are also noted.

So far in 2019, he made nine appearances for the Japanese club in J2, scoring one goal.  He featured five times in the J League Cup, starting three matches in the group stage, and also played both legs of the intermediate stage against Gamba Osaka, which Nagasaki lost 4-3 on aggregate.  His lone appearance in the Emperor's Cup was in a 2-1 extra-time second round win earlier this month.

Feeling as though he hasn't received enough playing time in Japan, he decided to make the move to come back home, and with Jeju struggling for form for most of the season, the indicators suggest that he will be given ample opportunity to showcase what he can do on the island.

His presence will be welcomed.  Jeju are in a relegation fight at the moment, and barely hanging on for dear life, as only two points separate them from the drop with crucial matches against Jeonbuk, Ulsan and Sangju Sangmu approaching before they take on Incheon United away from home on August 18th.  He will need to recover his form a bit as the last time he played in a league match in the J League was at the beginning of June when he came on as a substitute against JEF United Chiba, which was followed by a string of five matches of not being selected for the squad.

Another Stint in the K League

Choi made his debut in the K League back in 2016 with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.  That season, he appeared fourteen times, playing the full ninety minutes in most matches.  He scored one goal against Sangju in the early stages of the year.  One thing which stands out and could be a cause for concern is the fact that he seems to be prone to going into the referee's book.  He accumulated eight yellow cards and one red in his first professional season, and it was one of the reasons why he wasn't afforded more playing time.

Moving on to Ulsan Hyundai for the 2017 season, he was used sparingly, mostly occupying space on the bench for the first half of the season before seeing more game action from the summer on, as he made six starts.  He also played the final group stage match in the Asian Champions League against Brisbane Roar, but by that point, Ulsan had already been eliminated from any chance of progressing to the knockout stage of the competition.  He did, however, add the FA Cup to his resume, as the Horangi defeated Busan IPark in the two leg final on the strength of a 2-1 away win at the Gudeok.

Also of note is the fact that he was a member of Korea's Olympic squad for the Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.  He featured in the opening 8-0 drubbing of Fiji, and also played a full match in the 3-3 draw against Germany.  Korea would go on to lose by a single goal to Honduras in the quarter-finals, where he came on as a substitute near the end of the match.

Looking ahead to his time with Jeju, he approaches it with a positive attitude.  

"I am very happy to come to a good team like Jeju," he said.  "Although I am only coming here on loan, I still want to produce the best possible results that I can whenever I am given the opportunity." 

Manager Choi Yun-kyum also sees positive things in the immediate future.

"I cannot manage my defensive unit well recently due to injuries and stamina problems.  But, the addition of Choi Kyu-baek should put an end to those concerns."

Up to this point, Aleks Jovanovic has been a mainstay in defense for the club, with Kim Dong-woo and Kim Seung-woo also seeing time alongside him to varying degrees.  Although only 25, Choi Kyu-baek has a good opportunity in being added to that mix.  The summer months will be strenuous, and Jeju, despite showing some better form of late, are still badly in need of results as they try to separate themselves from the relegation zone.  

The islanders have never been relegated to the lower division of Korean football since the club came into being, and it would be a shame to see it happen this season considering how much the team has done to improve itself from a personnel standpoint since the beginning of this calendar year.  But, in order for relegation to be avoided, a lot of work still needs to be done, and there isn't a lot of time with all the new faces around for things to gel.  If they are going to stay up, the time for Jeju is now.

The initial photos of Choi were shot on location on Jeju Island, as the club looks to help promote local business and tourism.  


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