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Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Goalkeeper Solutions Post Song Bum-keun

The departure of highly-rated goalkeeper Song Bum-keun over the winter left Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in a tricky situation. Losing the Korean international, and even worse, on a free transfer was far from ideal. The last time the club suffered such a blow to this position was back in 2017 with the departure of Kwoun Sun-tae. At that time, Jeonbuk opted to entrust second-choice Hong Jung-nam to replace the three-time ACL winner as the starting goalkeeper. The most apparent solution this time round was to repeat that action and replace Song Bum-keun with second-choice Lee Bum-soo, who had an excellent ACL campaign for Jeonbuk last year and has prior experience as a first-choice keeper in K League 1. That seemed the most logical solution. However, this was not the case, and surprisingly, Lee Bum-soo also left the club after his contract had expired.

2023 Goalkeeper Situation

Jeonbuk acted swiftly in reinforcing the goalkeeper position by bringing in Jeong Min-ki from FC Anyang. Jeong never played in the K League 1 before his transfer to North Jeolla but was highly rated for some time.

Jeonbuk has had great success in recent years by delving into the K League 2 market. Over the past few seasons, acquisitions from the second division have become valuable players to the club.

The arrival of Jeong Min-ki and the departure of both first and second-choice keepers from the previous season left many expecting Jeong to become first-choice, and he was seen as the Song Bum-keun replacement.

Instead, now 22-year-old Kim Jeong-hoon, who returned from military service, has featured in all but three of Jeonbuk's K League 1 fixtures this season. It was thought Jeong and Kim may rotate between each other for this season as Kim Jeong-hoon started the first round of the K League and Jeong Min-ki the subsequent three before the manager at the time, Kim Sang-sik, turned back to favouring Kim Jeong-hoon.

It is worth noting Jeong Min-ki did have a lengthy spell on the sidelines and, as a result, secured Kim Jeong-hoon's starting position even further. In the past, the North Jeolla club have struggled with the U22 quota. Having Kim as the first choice is beneficial as the mandatory U22 inclusion instead of an outfield player who would be substituted more often.

Believing in Home-grown Talent

Kim Jeong-hoon - Kim Jeong-hoon has developed substantially this season since his disastrous error in round 1 leading to Ludwigson's winner for Ulsan. The Green Warriors have conceded the fewest goals in K League 1 this year, quite remarkable considering their calamitous league season. Kim Jeong-hoon has played a significant role in securing that impressive defensive statistic.

The 22-year-old has shown he is a capable K League 1 goalkeeper and proved many doubters wrong with his more assured shot-stopping than in his earlier games this year. Although he was prone to the occasional mistake, he did not let it negatively affect him.

What really sets Kim apart from other keepers is his build-up ability. He is comfortable on the ball and competent playing out from the back with both feet. He has good accuracy when going long and often opts to strike a well-hit long pass out wide.

The Youngsaeng High School (Jeonbuk youth team) product has been part of the Korean national team setup since U17 level and currently represents Korea at U23 level. He is part of the preliminary team for the Paris Olympics and is in the squad for the Asian Games this month.

Although not yet reached the level of Song Bum-keun, Kim Jeong-hoon is gaining valuable first-team experience and maturing into an adequate and reliable goalkeeper for the Jeonju-based side. With his military service already out of the way, Kim is a strong candidate for replacing Song, not just in the short term. However, Jeonbuk fans would feel a lot more comfortable if he were to pen a new contract.

Kim Joon-hong - Kim Joon-hong is another Youngsaeng product, currently undergoing military service at Gimcheon Sangmu (returns to Jeonbuk, July 2024), and is an especially highly rated prospect this season after some of his tremendous performances at the U20 World Cup in Argentina.

Kim and fellow Jeonbuk teammates Park Chang-woo and Kang Sang-yoon helped Korea reach the semi-final of the U20 World Cup. The 20-year-old goalkeeper was one of the standout performers for the young Taeguk Warriors and caught the eye of many in the process. 

The first group stage game against France, which Korea won 2-1, was a match that Kim shined in. He made a fantastic reaction save from a defensive header back to him from his own defender, which nearly ended up as an own goal. Overall, throughout the tournament, he was impressive.

Like Kim Jeong-hoon, Kim Joon-hong has been involved in the national team setup since U17 level. He was also the primary goalkeeper for the U20 Asian Cup last year and is a consistent performer for the KNT. He earned himself a place in Klinsmann's first-team Korea squad for the first time this week, presumably coming in to replace the injured Song Bum-keun.

He faces tough competition for a starting place at Gimcheon Sangmu with Pohang's Kang Hyeon-mu, Jeju's Mun Kyung-gun and his teammate from youth international level, Gwangju's Shin Song-hoon. As a result, he hasn't seen much game time but has received minutes recently, playing six of the last nine matches after not featuring all season for the military club.

While Kim Jeong-hoon has superior build-up ability with the ball at his feet playing out from the back and possesses an accurate pass, Kim Joon-hong can accurately direct a pinpoint long pass very well up the pitch. His long-range shot-stopping ability is generally sufficient. Furthermore, he is comfortable catching the ball and handling is also generally impressive. The more direct long-ball quality of Kim Joon-hong could suit Petrescu's style of football as the Jeonbuk manager likes to utilise a target forward. Bak Jae-yong's hold-up ability is quite decent, so this could work.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot of promise with both of these goalkeepers. Kim Jeong-hoon has proved to be a stable enough replacement for Song Bum-keun this season, even with the odd error. That is part and parcel of fielding an inexperienced young player. He certainly has the potential to fill the boots of Song in the long term. 

Kim Joon-hong is the more highly rated out of the two of them. He qualifies for the U22 quota for the 2024 and 2025 seasons. Whereas Kim Jeong-hoon will not be U22 beyond this season. Kim Joon-hong may likely be favoured, and if so, mainly because of his U22 eligibility.

As for Jeong Min-ki, his Jeonbuk future is uncertain. The fact that Kim Jeong-hoon is losing his U22 status in 2024 and Kim Joon-hong not returning until July could open up a potential space in the team for him in the meantime. He will also be sure to receive game time soon as Kim Jeong-hoon heads off on U23 national team duty. Now is his chance to prove himself to Petrescu!

Song Bum-keun was a massive loss for Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. However, he did, in fact, secure a place for Kim Jeong-hoon this season because of his departure. He or/maybe in addition with Kim Joon-hong, will likely be the one('s) to take up the mantle and replace the now Shonan Bellmare man in the long term. However, Kim Jeong-hoon may leave if he is no longer a starter. He would likely follow in Song's footsteps to Japan.


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