Park admits he’s dating broadcaster
At the Suwon World Cup Stadium, Park also spoke about his future, revealing a hint of where he would wrap up his career as arguably the greatest Korean footballer. He said that he keeps the door open to playing in the K-League Classic, a departure from his previous stance, although he was adamant against returning to the national team. However, the focus of the press conference - and what drove the event to take place in the first place - was his much-publicized relationship with SBS announcer Kim Min-ji.
Park admitted that he is in a romantic relationship with Kim. It is the first confirmed romantic relationship involving the midfielder, whose fame as one of the richest, most popular bachelors in Korea had linked him to many female celebrities, including actresses Kim Sa-rang and Bae Doo-na.
“I began to meet her in 2011 at the recommendation of my father,” said Park, 32, referring to Kim Min-ji, 27, who became an announcer on SBS in 2010 and works on a football news program.
Park said their relationship was friendly in the beginning, but it became romantic when he returned to Korea after finishing his first season with the Queens Park Rangers.
Reports of their relationship surfaced Wednesday after Sports Seoul posted photos of the two dating alongside the Han River, watching Korea’s final qualifying game against Iran Tuesday night on a smartphone. The news spread quickly and was followed by an interview with Kim’s mother, a fine arts professor at the University of Suwon, in which she admitted that her daughter is seriously dating Park.
Park’s promoter, JS Foundation, said on Wednesday that it would hold a press conference on the sidelines of a scholarship-awarding ceremony that was long scheduled to be held yesterday.
Many media speculated that the two will get married soon, with some reporting that they already have reservations at a hotel for a wedding in September. Park said that he and Kim are in “passionate love” with each other but denied that they have wedding plans.
“The European football teams will summon the players in early July and spend the preseason together. Unless I retire, I don’t have a wedding plan yet,” Park said.
Park’s romance was a boon for the Korea Football Association, which was facing mounting criticism for the lackluster performances of the Korean national team. The Taegeuk Warriors, led by outgoing coach Choi Kang-hee, qualified for an eighth consecutive World Cup, but many of their weaknesses were exposed in the qualifying stage, including during a 1-0 loss to Iran on Tuesday, which indicate that Korea’s success at the 2002 World Cup might be hard to replicate in Brazil.
That triggered fans to talk about a possible comeback by Park, a member of the 2002 World Cup semifinalists who retired from the national team in January 2011. But, Park confirmed that he will not return to the national team at the Brazil World Cup.
“That would never happen,” Park said, adding that nobody, not even his girlfriend, would change his mind.
Regarding the slumping Korean national team, he said he is positive that Korea could play better in Brazil.
“They have not fared well in the three final World Cup qualifiers. But, they experienced a crisis in the past, and have overcome it well,” Park said. “Considering that there are some other good players who did not play in the national team this time, I think Korea will do it well at the [Brazil] World Cup if it prepares well for the remaining time.”
He also mentioned Hong Myung-bo, the captain of the 2002 World Cup team, who is considered the favorite to replace Choi. Park said that he has no doubt that Hong is a great manager. “I think he has sufficient quality to be the best coach to lead Korean football for its future,” Park said.
Talking about his next move (QPR has been relegated to the second division of the English Premier League next season), Park said that playing with a European club is his priority, but he is open to every possibility, including making a debut in the K-League.
“I can play on any of the teams across the world. I would prioritize playing in Europe, but a chance is open for me to play in the K-League Classic.”
BY MOON GWANG-LIP, KIM JI-HAN [firstname.lastname@example.org]