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2012 Olympic Team: Where are they now?

The last South Korean men’s football team to win Olympic medals was in 2012, led by Hong Myung-bo. Hong's 18-man squad won bronze medals in London, but where are they now? 

What Happened?

Group Stage

South Korea were drawn into Group B along with Mexico, Gabon and Switzerland. The Taeguk Warriors' first game with Mexico, a side which had the likes of Raúl Jiménez and Giovani dos Santos in their squad, ended 0-0. But then a 2-1 win over Switzerland in the second game got Hong Myung-bo's side up and running; goals came from then Arsenal striker Park Chu-young and Kim Bo-kyung who was about to join Premier League side Cardiff City. The last match of the group stage was against a Gabon outfit which had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up top and ended 0-0 meaning that Korea had picked up five points and enough to finish second and through to the knockouts.


In the quarter-finals Korea took on hosts Great Britain and earned a credible 1-1 draw; Ji Dong-won opened the scoring in the 29th minute before Aaron Ramsey levelled from the spot just seven minutes later. Extra time came and went and the match was then settled with a penalty shootout. Korea scored all five of their penalties but Great Britain's Daniel Sturridge missed the fifth penalty and Korea went through.

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Up next was Brazil, a side which boasted of stars such as Thiago Silva, Oscar, Alex Sandro, Neymar, Hulk and Alexandre Pato. The South Americans ran out comfortable 3-0 winners with goals from Leandro Damião and Rômulo. Korea's medal hopes were hinged on the Bronze medal match.

Bronze medal match

It just had to be, didn't it? South Korea versus Japan with an Olympic medal and, of course, military exemption on the line. Korea ran out 2-0 winners, though, thanks to goals from Park Chu-young and skipper Koo Ja-cheol but what happened to South Korea's 2012 Olympic football team and what have they achieved since? Let's have a look.


1. Jung Sung-ryong (then aged 27 at Suwon Bluewings, now 36 at Kawasaki Frontale)

Jung Sung-ryong remained at Suwon Bluewings up until 2015 before departing for J.League with Kawasaki Frontale where he remains to this day. In Japan, Jung has won three J.League titles, an Emperor’s Cup, and two Japanese Super Cups. He came up against Daegu FC in AFC Champions League in 2021 and saved a penalty in a 3-1 win. In seven appearances against K League opposition in ACL, Jung has a record of played seven, won three, drawn two and lost two.

18. Lee Bum-young (then aged 23 at Busan IPark, now 32 at Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors)

Much like Jung sung-ryong, Lee Bum-young stayed in K League until the end of 2015 before heading across the East Sea. Lee signed for Avispa Fukuoka and appeared 25 times in J1 before returning to his native land a year later with Gangwon FC. After two years at Gangwon, Lee signed for Jeonbuk to be their number two but an Achilles injury cost him a year of his career and only recently did he make his first appearances for the Green Warriors. With Song Bum-keun on Olympic duty for Korea, Lee was Kim Sang-sik’s number one for the ACL Group Stages in Uzbekistan. He appeared in five of Jeonbuk's Group Stage matches including in the 9-0 win over Tampines Rovers.


2. Oh Jae-suk (then 22 Gangwon FC, now 31 at Incheon United)

Oh Jae-suk spent just one season with Gangwon FC before departing for J.League with Gamba Osaka. He spent three years in Japan's second city, appearing over 100 times in the league and won both the J2 and J1 titles in 2013 in 2014, won two Emperor's Cups, a J.League Cup and one Japanese Super Cup before departing for Nagoya Grampus in 2020. Just 12 months later, though, and Oh and returned to K League with Incheon United and has been a first-team regular so far in 2021.

3. Yun Suk-young (then 22 at Jeonnam Dragons, now 31 Gangwon FC)

Yun Suk-young stayed with Jeonnam Dragons until the end of the 2012 season but then left for the Premier League with Queens Park Rangers in January 2013. However, Yun didn't make a single first team appearance for QPR who were relegated that season. He also had a short loan spell with Doncaster Rovers in 2013. Since then, Yun had a loan spell with Charlton Athletic before joining Brondby IF in Denmark in a move that didn't work out. He then joined FC Seoul on loan, then Gangwon FC, then Busan IPark then made a permanent move to Gangwon FC in 2021 where he is now mostly used as a left-sided centre back in a back three.

4. Kim Young-gwon (then 22 at Guangzhou Evergrande, now 31 at Gamba Osaka)

Kim Young-gwon remained with Guangzhou Evergrande up until 2018, making close to 100 appearances before joining Gamba Osaka where he is to this day. Kim, of course, is famous for scoring Korea's first goal in the 2-0 2018 World Cup win over Germany, and was linked with a move to Europe but instead made a return to J.League having already turned out for  Omiya Ardija between 2011 and 2012. While with Guangzhou Evergrande, Kim won six CSL titles, two Chinese FA Cups, a Chinese FA Super Cup and was two AFC Champions Leagues, including one against FC Seoul in 2013. At Gamba, Kim picked up an Emperor's Cup runner up medal last season.

5. Kim Kee-hee (then 23 at Daegu FC, now 32 at Ulsan Hyundai)

Kim Kee-hee remained with Daegu FC up until the end of the 2013 season but had a loan spell in Qatar with Al-Sailiya. He then joined Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and went on to win two K League titles before departing in a reported $6 million move to CSL side Shanghai Shenhua where he won the 2017 Chinese FA Cup. The year 2018 brought him a move to MLS with Seattle Sounders where he won the 2019 MLS Cup. Since the start of the 2020 season, Kim has been at Ulsan Hyundai and was part of the team which lifted the AFC Champions League last year. With departures to Jung Seung-hyun and Yun Young-sun, Kim has been installed as a permanent partner for Dave Bulthuis at the heart of the Horangi defence. 

12. Hwang Seok-ho (then 23 at Sanfrecce Hiroshima, now 32 at Sagan Tosu)

Hwang Seok-ho began his career with Sanfrecce Hiroshima and won two J1 League titles in 2012 and 2013 as well as a Japanese Super Cup in 2014. A move to Kashima Antlers followed in 2015 where he won another J. League title as well as one Emperor's Cup and one J.League Cup. In 2017, Hwang had a season in China with Tianjin Teda before returning to Japan with Shimizu S-Pulse, where he spent three seasons, before moving to Sagan Tosu in 2021. 

14. Kim Chang-soo (then 26 at Busan IPark, now 35 at Incheon United)

Kim Chang-soo was one of Hong Myung-bo's wild cards in 2012, these days though he is one of a number of veterans at Incheon United. After leaving Busan IPark in 2012, Kim moved to Japan with Kashiwa Reysol where he spent three seasons. After which he returned to K League with Jeonbuk but was limited to just 17 appearances but eight of those came in the 2016 AFC Champions League-winning season. Since leaving the Green Warriors, Kim has turned out for Ulsan, where he spent three seasons, before joining Gwangju FC and then in June 2021 Incheon United on a free transfer after being without a club for six months. 


6. Ki Sung-yueng (then 23 at Celtic FC, now 32 at FC Seoul)

Ki, of course, went onto become the national team captain but at club level, he left Celtic in 2012 and joined Premier League side Swansea City where he won the League Cup in 2013. He had a loan spell with Sunderland for the 2013/2014 season and reached a second League Cup final in a row but lost out to Manchester City. Ki returned to the Liberty Stadium up until 2018 before joining Newcastle United. but left by mutual consent and joined Real Mallorca in January 2020. After an injury-plagued short term stint in Spain, Ki returned to K League last year with FC Seoul where he is the captain.

7. Kim Bo-kyung (then 22 at Cerezo Osaka, now 31 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors)

Kim Bo-kyung left Cerezo Osaka in 2012 and joined Cardiff City in the Premier League. He spent three seasons in the Welsh capital, suffering relegation in 2012 before leaving for Wigan Athletic in the Championship in 2015. Kim played 18 matches in what was a relegation season for Wigan but then left to join J1 side Matsumoto Yamaga before signing for Jeonbuk. In his first season with the Green Warriors in 2016, he won the AFC Champions League and then the K League title a year later. He then returned to Japan with Kashiwa Reysol for a brief spell before joining Ulsan Hyundai on loan in 2019, narrowly missing out on the title but was named as the K League MVP. Ulsan were unable to sign him on a permanent deal and so he re-joined Jeonbuk in 2020 where he remains to this day.

8. Baek Sung-dong (then 20 at Jubilo Iwata, now 29 at Gyeongnam FC)

Another Japan-based South Korean international at the time of the 2012 Olympics was Baek Sung-dong. Baek was on the books of Jubilo Iwata before joining Sagan Tosu in 2015 where he made close to 40 appearances. In 2016, Baek was sent out on loan to V-Varen Nagasaki before making his K League debut for Suwon FC in 2017. Baek skippered Suwon FC towards the end of his spell at Castle Park but is now with Gyeongnam FC and narrowly missed out on promotion last year, ironically against his former club Suwon.

11. Nam Tae-hee (then 21 at Al-Duhail, now 30 at Al-Duhail via other teams)

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Nam Tae-hee is one of the few players from South Korea's 2012 Olympic squad who have never played in K League. He actually began his career in France with Valenciennes before moving to the Middle East with Qatari side Al-Duhail. Between 2012 and 2019 Nam went on to make over 150 appearances for the club and won five Qatar Stars League titles, two Emir of Qatar Cups, two Sheik Jassim Cups, and three Qatar Cups. He was then snapped up by Al-Sadd in 2019 where he won a further two Qatar Cups as well as one Sheik Jassim Cup before returning to Al-Duhail in the summer of 2021.

13. Koo Ja-cheol (then 23 at Augsburg, now Free Agent)

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Korea's captain at London 2012, Koo Ja-cheol, was already in Europe with Bundesliga side Augbsurg. After leaving Jeju United in 2011, Koo joined Wolfsburg and spent three years there but was sent out on loan to Augsburg for the 2012/2013 season. He would later sign for the Bavarian side but after a season with Mainz in 2014/2015. After a four-year stint with Augsburg, Koo joined Al-Gharafa in Qatar but is now a free agent and has been linked to a return to Jeju United. 

15. Park Jong-woo (then 23 at Busan IPark, now 32 at Busan IPark via other clubs)

Park Jong-woo is currently with Busan IPark, the same team he was affiliated with during London 2012, but has had something of a nomadic career since then. Park remained with the Royals up until 2013 before signing for Guangzhou R&F (now Guangzhou City) in the Chinese Super League. Then, after just one season, joined Emirati club Al Jazira in 2015. He spent two seasons there before joining Emirates in 2017. Park then returned to K League in 2018 with Suwon Bluewings and is now back with Busan where he has been since 2019 and helped helped guide the South Coast side to promotion via the playoffs.

Park, however, will be known for the controversy he faced after holding up what the International Olympic Committee deemed as a political statement. Park displayed a sign which read "Dokdo is Korean territory" and so was banned from the medal ceremony and did not receive his bronze medal at first. It was also announced that he was under investigation by the International Olympic Committee and FIFA, both of which have rules that prohibit political statements by athletes on the field. He was, however, still granted military exemption and eventually did receive his medal.

16. Jung Woo-young (then 22 at Kyoto Sanga, now 31 at Al Sadd)

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Jung Woo-young has played for five different clubs throughout his career, none of which have been in K League. In 2012, Jung left J.League side Kyoto Sanga for a loan spell with Jubilo Iwata before sealing a permanent switch to Vissel Kobe in 2014. In 2016, Jung joined Chongqing Lifan and had two years in China before returning to Vissel Kobe in 2018 but soon after joined Al-Sadd where he remains to this day. In Qatar, Jung has won one Qatar Stars League title, one Emir of Qatar Cup, one Sheikh Jassem Cup, as well as back-to-back Qatar Cups in 2020 and 2021.


9. Ji Dong-won (then 21 at Sunderland AFC, now 30 at FC Seoul)

At the relatively tender age of just 21, Ji Dong-won was already in the Premier League with Sunderland at the time of the London Olympics. Ji stayed on Wearside until 2014 but had two loan spells with Augsburg in 2013 and 2014 before eventually joining Jurgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund. While in western Germany, Ji failed to make a single first team appearance for Dortmund and mostly turned out for the club's second string. In 2015 he returned to Augsburg, making over 80 appearances in a four-year spell before joining Mainz for two years and then Eintracht Braunschweig in the second tier in 2021. Ji has since returned to K League with FC Seoul and made his debut in the Gyeongin Derby defeat to Incheon United on July 14th.

10. Park Chu-young (then 27 at Arsenal, now 36 at FC Seoul)

Another striker who was Premier League based but is now with FC Seoul is Park Chu-young. Park was on the books at Arsenal at the time of London 2012 but only made a handful of appearances for the North London giants. Park had loan spells with Celta Vigo and Watford before signing for Al-Shabab in Saudi Arabia permanently in 2014. In 2015 Park returned to FC Seoul, the team he began his career with in 2005. He helped FC Seoul win the K League title in 2016 by scoring the winning goal on the final day of the season away to Jeonbuk. During his latest stint with FC Seoul, Park Chu-young has played 212 games, scored 55 goals and laid on 25 assists. 

17. Kim Hyun-sung (then 22 at FC Seoul, now 31 at Pohang Steelers)

Striker Kim Hyun-sung remained with FC Seoul up until 2015 but had loan spells with Daegu FC in 2010, 2011 and Shimizu S-Pulse in 2012. He then joined Busan IPark in 2016 and had a two-year spell on the South Coast before joining Seongnam FC in 2019. In the 2021 summer transfer window, Kim signed for Pohang Steelers and has been given the number nine shirt.


Hong Myung-bo

The man who guided Korea to Olympic glory in 2012 was of course Hong Myung-bo, Korean football legend and current Ulsan Hyundai boss. In doing so, the bronze picked up by South Korea was the first medals ever for the country in Olympic football as well as being the first Asian team in 44 years to win a medal at that event.

Hong actually took over as full national team boss in 2013 and was in charge of the team up to and including the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Korea ended up finishing bottom of Group B and picked up just a point in three matches - earned in a 1-1 draw with Russia in the Taeguk Warriors' first group stage match. A 4-2 loss to Algeria followed and then a 1-0 reverse against Belgium meaning Korea crashed out of the World Cup. Hong then departed the national team set up and later went to China with Hangzhou Greentown between 2016 and 2017, finishing 15th and suffering relegation in his first season and and 9th the following year in the second tier. Before returning to management in 2021, Hong was an advisor for the Korean Football Association 

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