Written by Jun Yoon in 2013
Defensive Midfielder, #16, 24 Years Old
Ki, Sung Yong(기성용) was born as the son of Ki, Young Ok on January 24th 1989 in Kwangyang, South Korea. He currently plays central midfield for Sunderland in the English Premier League and is also a key member for the South Korean national team. He is known for his vision, technique and good set-pieces. He plays the role of the deep-lying playmaker for the South Korean national team, a role that players such as Xabi Alonso and Pirlo excel at.
Ki has played soccer for his entire life. He first started playing in elementary school under the supervision of his father Ki, Young Ok, who was the coach for the prestigious Kumho high school in the area. Kumho highschool is famous for its football program and has many alumni who played for the South Korean national team such as Jong-soo Ko, Tae-Young Kim, and Jung-Hwan Yoon. In 2001, Ki was sent to Australia by his father who believed that learning not only football but also English was essential to succeed as a footballer. Ki lived 5 years in Australia attending John Paul College where he played for Jeff Hopkins. He was part of the team that won the U-15 Nationals (Bill Turner Cup) for John Paul in 2004.
In 2005 Ki was offered a contract from FC Seoul where he met his long-time friend Chung Yong Lee. For the majority of 2005 and 2006 Ki was on the bench as the Brazilian midfielder Ricardo played a key role for FC Seoul. However in 2007 as Senol Gunes replaced Jang Soo Lee as the manager, Ki made his debut.
Ever since his debut in 2007 Ki has played a critical role for FC Seoul. One of the most memorable events is the winning goal Ki scored in the 92th minute against the Suwon Samsung Bluewings on April 2nd 2008. Ki then performed a “kangaroo ceremony” in front of Woonjae Lee, the captain of the South Korean national team during the time. Ki later explained that the ceremony was an imitation of Togo’s Emmanuel Adebayor’s ceremony during in the 2006 Germany World Cup. During the 2008~09 season, Ki was called up to the national team along with his teammate Chung Yong Lee. Ki was also named in the K-League Best Eleven at the age of 19, breaking the record set by Jong Soo Ko at the age of 20.
As Ki continued his phenomenal season, he was closely scrutinized by several European teams including PSV Eindhoven, Porto, Celtic, and many others. However, FC Seoul, having already sent away Chung Yong Lee to the Bolton Wanderers, were unwilling to move Ki given their success in the league and the Asian Champions League. But ultimately FC Seoul and Celtic reached an agreement worth 2.1 million British pounds. Following the transfer, Ki made his debut in the Scottish league in the match between Falkirk on January 16, 2010.
Ki continued his success at Celtic and developed into a stronger player both mentally and physically and became their anchor man on the pitch. During the same time, Ki secured the role of the defensive midfielder for South Korea and became a feistier player on the field, not fearing contact with the opposition’s toughest player. Over the course of the 2011~12 Scottish Premier League season, Ki scored 7 goals and had 6 assists and helped the Celtic win the league title. Ki’s talents lured other teams such as QPR, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Deportivo, and several other clubs.
On August 24, 2012, Ki transferred to Swansea City for 6 million pounds, which broke the club record previously held by Wilfried Bony. However, during the 12~13 campaign, Ki was involved in a massive controversy in the South Korean national team which ultimately affected his play. He was transferred on a loan to Sunderland.
Ki has been involved in many controversies concerning his attitude towards the game and his respect towards the national team. Ki first crossed the line in 2007. After the match between Uzbekistan as the qualifier for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the South Korean national team was bombarded by the Korean media for its poor play on the field. Ki came back with a comment on his personal page that quoted “(If we play so bad) Why don’t you guys go play.” Though Ki erased the comment minutes after he realized his mistake, his reckless action headlined most of the Korean media for a while.
In 2008 Ki was involved in a controversy once again, regarding his ceremony “kangaroo ceremony” in the match between the Suwon Samsung Bluewings. After scoring the winning goal against Woonjae Lee, the goalie of the Bluewings and also the captain of the South Korean national team back then, Ki hopped across the ground taunting the legendary goalie and the Suwon fans. This action was even more criticized than his words in 2007 as he violated the “courtesy” towards his seniors and disrespected the whole Suwon fans. In comparison to Cristiano Ronaldo and Mario Gotze who refrained from celebrating when they scored against Man United and Borussia Dortmund, Ki disrespected the most capped member of the South Korean national team. In revenge of the ceremony, when Suwon scored in the returning match during the same season, they did a parody of Ki’s kangaroo ceremony by having Chong-Gook Song knock over a player who was performing the kangaroo ceremony.
From 09~12 Ki wasn’t too involved in any controversies as he transferred to Celtic. Then in 2013 Ki was the center of the biggest controversy in the history of South Korean football. On June 2nd, Ki posted a line on his twitter “A leader must be ‘heavy’ (meaning solemn/dignified/not shaken) and must be understanding, he who makes enemies must not be a leader.” When he was questioned by the media that his tweet was directed towards the head coach of the national team Kanghee Choi, Ki refrained from answering and said he just wrote down what the pastor had said at a service he had attended days ago.
Several days later, a columnist by the name of Hyun-hoe Kim released an article which detailed Ki’s facebook account where he expressed his discontent with the national team and ridiculed Choi in public. On February 22nd, Ki posted a news article which quoted “Choi, the coach of the national team, expresses his doubts about the level of play in the Scottish Premier League.” Ki then posted in a sarcastic manner that he was thankful for Choi to pick a player (Ki) from such a lowly competitive league. On March 2nd, Ki again posted, after a draw against Kuwait during the final rounds of the 2014 Brazil World Cup qualifiers, that he was extremely displeased with how Choi managed the South Korean national team and that he and the other players who play overseas must be preferred to the players who play in the K-League. In expressing his discontent, Ki used expressions that “Choi is being ‘haughty’ in not playing the European leaguers” and that “Choi will pay a big price for not playing them.” After this column was released, Ki received a tremendous amount of backlash from both the Korean media and the Korean netizens (a word describing the Koreans on the internet). Even though Ki had helped South Korea make the final qualifying rounds, the general consensus was the Ki should be banned from the national team for his actions.
Ki was then called back into South Korea by the KFA and was demanded that he apologize for his actions and to the manager Kanghee Choi. Ki, sensing the seriousness of the situation came forward and bowed his head before the media and luckily for him, the KFA decided to forgive of his actions. From that point on Ki has deactivated all his SNS accounts including Twitter and Facebook. He has returned to the national team under the new head coach Myungbo Hong and has secured a spot on the squad, resuming his role has the team’s enforcer and deep-lying playmaker.
<2014 World Cup>
Regarding the recent controversy that Ki was involved, it is crucial for Ki to perform well in the 2014 Brazil World Cup. He is the only player in South Korea that can play the deep-lying playmaker role, the defensive midfielder who can take control of the game by orchestrating the offense in front of the defensive line. He has the physique and the skill that a European player possesses and over the years, Ki has tremendously improved his weaknesses in covering for the defensive line and winning headers by playing in the Scottish Premier League and the English Premier League. In the World Cup he will also be one of the more experienced players in the very young Korean national team along with his long-time friend Chung Yong Lee. It is crucial for Ki and Chung Yong Lee to lead the other players by example at all times. If he leads South Korea pass the round of 16 and into the quarter finals, he has the chance to become the face of the South Korean football for many years to come.
How to cite this article: “Republic of Korea: Sung Yong Ki” Written by Jun Yoon (2013), World Cup 2014, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp (accessed on (date)).
 기성용 트위터 논란 모음, http://blog.daum.net/sirepark/489
 김현회, SNS논란 해프닝 아닌 심각한 문제, http://sports.news.nate.com/view/20130704n05137?mid=s1001&isq=5887