Jeju closes storybook season with top awards

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Jeju closes storybook season with top awards

Two of the K-League’s top end-of-season awards went to forward Kim Eun-jung and manager Park Kyung-hoon of Jeju United, the runner-up in the K-League Championship tourney earlier this month.

Kim was decorated with the season’s Most Valuable Player honor while Park was named top manager.

Yoon Bitgaram of Gyeongnam FC won the Rookie of the Year award at the annual ceremony at the Grand Hilton Convention Center in central Seoul, yesterday.

It is the first time that the season’s MVP and top manager were both given to nominees from a team that did not lift the K-League trophy.

Kim, a 13-year veteran, scored 17 goals and added 11 assists to lead Jeju United to a record of 17 wins, 8 draws and 3 losses. He took 55 out of 113 media votes to win the MVP award, defeating runner-up Adilson of FC Seoul by seven votes. Yoo Byung-soo, who led the league with 22 goals this season, received only seven votes.

Kim is only the second player ever from a nonchampionship team to win the award.

Once lauded as the hottest forward prospect in Korea, Kim entered the K-League with the Daejeon Citizens in 1997. Although he scored five goals for the national football team between 1998 and 2004, Kim suffered through several mediocre seasons before joining the Changsha Ginde of the Chinese Super League last season.

Following a successful season with Changsha, Jeju United manager Park snapped up Kim in an effort to shore up his young roster with veteran presence.

It seemed Park had a clear vision of what he wanted to do with the Jeju squad, which finished a paltry 14th in the 15 team league last season.

In his first season with Jeju, Park not only led the club to the second-best record in the league, but also put up a formidable fight in the championship finals against the much favored FC Seoul earlier this month.

Park ended up winning the award in dominating fashion, receiving 87 of the 113 votes to defeat Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma’s Shin Tae-yong, who received 23 votes. FC Seoul’s Nelo Vingada received three votes.

Yoon of FC Gyeongnam won the top rookie award with 80 votes.

In addition to becoming an integral part of Gyeongnam’s midfield this season, Yoon has also become a regular fixture on the national football team under new manager Cho Kwang-rae.

Chunnam Dragons forward Ji Dong-won received 24 votes.

By Jason Kim []
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