Kim knows the drill as Seongnam covets FA Cup

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Kim knows the drill as Seongnam covets FA Cup

Kim Jung-woo was discharged yesterday from his 22-month military service with Sangju Sangmu Phoenix, the team of Korea’s armed forces, freeing him up to play for old club Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma.

The 29-year-old central midfielder may not be a sergeant anymore but Seongnam will hope Kim retains his scoring ways after he racked up 15 goals in 21 matches for the Army since reinventing himself as a striker.

He ranks as the K-League’s second most prolific scorer, four goals behind Montenegrin striker Dejan Damjanovic, who plays for FC Seoul.

But goals are not always enough. Despite Kim’s adroitness at beating keepers, Sangmu remains mired in 14th place in the 16-team league.

Kim, who also has 66 international caps, said he will not only bring a shower of goals to his old club but a new mental toughness.

“Sangmu made me strong and provided me with an opportunity to move a step forward [in my career],” Kim told Ilgan Sports, JoongAng Ilbo’s daily sports newspaper, on Sunday. “It put me in a position where I only had to focus on football, so I got to sharpen my skills as well.”

Nowadays, living on a diet of military chow and bunking down in an Army barracks devoid of TV sets is fast becoming a dim and distant memory for Kim as he moves into a more jet-set lifestyle.

His expected monthly salary of 30 million won ($26,000) is also a slight step up from the 97,500 won the Army paid him.

But rather than shop for a new designer wardrobe or a gas-guzzling SUV, the first thing on Kim’s agenda is organizing a war council with coach Shin Tae-yong to discuss tactics against Suwon Samsung Bluewings for next month’s FA Cup final.

Seongnam lost a penalty shootout to Suwon in the 2009 final - Kim’s last memory with the team before he left to join the military - and the club will be out for revenge. It then rebounded to win the AFC Champions League in 2010, but Kim had no part.

Now he is hungry for the second trophy of his career after picking up a league title with Ulsan Hyundai in 2005 and honing his striking powers with Sangmu.

“I want to keep up my good tempo,” Kim said. “I don’t want to hear that the team has gone downhill since I came back.”

For Seongnam, Kim’s discharge was just the news it has been waiting for. The seven-time K-League champion is hoping he will boost its attack along with Montenegrin striker Dzenan Radoncic, who recently came off the injury list.

The team is now sitting in 13th place with six matches remaining.

While Kim’s status, club environment, salary and almost everything else has changed in the last few days one thing, however, remains the same: the pocket money he gets from his mom every time he rattles one in.

“My mom gives me 1 million won for each goal I score,” Kim said.

“But recently I borrowed 2 million won from her so I need to get at least two goals with Chunma.”


By Joo Kyung-don, Kim Hwan [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]
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