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Former Seongnam FC manager to coach men’s U-23 team

Mar 02,2018
Kim Hak-bum will take cover as the new coach of the Korean men’s U-23 team. [YONHAP]
Korea on Wednesday named a new head coach for the national men’s under-23 football team.

The Korea Football Association (KFA) said Kim Hak-bum will guide the U-23 team at the 2018 Asian Games. The competition is restricted to players under 23, with each team permitted to carry three overage players as wild cards.

The position had been vacant since Kim Bong-gil was dismissed on Feb. 6 after about five months on the job. The KFA terminated its contract with Kim after the U-23 team performed below expectations and finished fourth at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship in China in January.

Kim Hak-bum, who turns 58 on Thursday, spent the majority of his coaching career with domestic pro club Seongnam FC. He won the K League championship with them in 2006 and later the Football Association Cup in 2014.

He also managed two other Korean clubs, Gangwon FC and Gwangju FC, and Chinese outfit Henan Jianye. Kim most recently coached Gwangju FC from August 2017 to November 2017.

The 2018 Asian Games will take place in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia, from Aug. 18 to Sept. 2. Korea won the 2014 Asian Games gold medal in men’s football.

Kim Pan-gon, head of the KFA’s committee on national team coaching hiring, said the new coach has “a good understanding” of the current corps of U-23 players, and that the KFA was confident in Kim Hak-bum’s ability to produce strong results at the Asian Games.

“He has a clear plan on how he will communicate with his players,” Kim Pan-gon said of the newly named coach. “He has experience taking over clubs in difficult situations and he has always been a great motivator.”

The KFA official added that Kim Hak-bum will be with the U-23 team through the Asian Games, and the KFA will determine later whether he will stay onboard for the 2020 Summer Olympics, another competition open only to players under 23.

In a phone interview after his appointment, Kim Hak-bum said he feels “a strong sense of duty” after taking over such an important post.

Though he’s never managed this age group, Kim said he has always maintained close contact with young players at his previous pro clubs and he’s also been keeping tabs on the current U-23 national team. He said he also broke down all six games Korea played at the AFC U-23 Championship in January.

“I made my own list of problems to address and identified strengths and weaknesses of each player,” the new coach said. “When I have the opportunity, I will talk in more detail about how I am going to run this team and what kind of football we’ll play.”

Kim Pan-gon said he liked Kim Hak-bum’s tactical acumen. In his most recent K League matches with Gwangju FC, when the club was on the brink of relegation to the second division, the coach came up with aggressive strategies, rather than playing passive football to try to avoid losses.

“Even though he didn’t get the results he wanted, I think this is where South Korean football should be headed,” Kim Pan-gon added. “We should try to put pressure on our opponents and dominate the ball.”

The KFA said it will organize an introductory press conference for Kim Hak-bum sometime next week.