Senior official handling men’s football coaching search offers to resign

Chung Hae-soung, head of the National Teams Committee at the Korea Football Association, speaks during a media briefing at the KFA headquarters in Seoul, April 2. Yonhap

A senior Korean football executive in charge of the men’s national team coaching search has offered to resign, officials said Saturday, as the country’s bid to hire a new bench boss took an unexpected turn.

According to officials at the Korea Football Association (KFA), Chung Hae-soung, head of the National Teams Committee at the KFA, expressed his intent to step down during his visit to the KFA headquarters in Seoul, Friday. Chung cited his declining health as a reason, but the KFA has not yet accepted the offer as of Saturday morning.

Chung was the lead official in the KFA’s search for the new men’s national team head coach. The position has been vacant since the KFA fired Jurgen Klinsmann on Feb. 16 following Korea’s loss in the semifinals of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup.

Chung was named the new head of the National Teams Committee that same month, after the KFA had reassigned former committee chief Michael Muller in light of the Asian Cup elimination.

Korea played two World Cup qualifying matches in March under caretaker manager Hwang Sun-hong, who was head coach of the men’s under-23 national team then. The KFA didn’t have nearly enough time to find a full-time replacement for Klinsmann, and Chung said he would hire a new head coach by the middle of May at the latest.

However, the KFA was not able to reach an agreement with its leading candidate, former Leeds United head coach Jesse Marsch. The American tactician ended up taking over the Canadian men’s national team.

Jesus Casas, the Spanish coach for the Iraqi men’s national team, was also considered, but he ended up staying put in Iraq.

For two more World Cup qualifying matches in June, the KFA turned to yet another caretaker boss, this time former K League head coach Kim Do-hoon.

Kim coached Korea to victories over Singapore and China to wrap up the second round of the Asian qualification for the 2026 World Cup. He then said he hoped he would be the last temporary head coach for the national team.

Kim was rumored to be among the finalists for the full-time position, but he told the local broadcaster KBS on Friday that he had already rejected an offer from the KFA.

KFA officials said Lee Lim-saeng, the technical director at the national federation, will now take over the hiring process.

Although Chung, as head of the National Teams Committee, was in charge of narrowing down and interviewing candidates, the final 안전 say still belonged to KFA President Chung Mong-gyu. While the committee had been leaning toward hiring a Korean-born coach, Chung Mong-gyu is believed to have been in favor of hiring a foreign national to lead the Korean team.

Though Chung Hae-soung cited health-related reasons, his differences with the KFA honcho might have compelled him to step down from his position.

The Taegeuk Warriors haven’t had a homegrown head coach since Shin Tae-yong ran the show from July 2017 to July 2018, a term that covered the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

After Shin, Portuguese tactician Paulo Bento was at the helm from August 2018 to December 2022, followed by Klinsmann, a German, from March 2023 to February 2024.

Korea’s World Cup qualifying campaign will resume in about two months, with the beginning of the third round on Sept. 5. Korea will play Iraq, Jordan, Oman, Palestine and Kuwait in Group B.

There are three groups of six in the third round, and the top two nations from each group will secure places for the 2026 World Cup.

Korea have played at every World Cup since 1986

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