Korean coaches find success by leading other countries

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Korean coaches find success by leading other countries


Korean coaches are making a name for themselves at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, leading athletes to victories in sports ranging from badminton to archery. Unfortunately for Team Korea, many of them are doing so in other countries’ uniforms.

The Vietnamese football team has reached the round of 16 under the leadership of Korean head coach Park Hang-seo. Starting with a 1-0 victory over Japan, Park has successfully led the team to three straight wins in Group D.

Park’s popularity has been bolstered by his obvious commitment to his Vietnamese team. A video posted by one of his players that showed the coach massaging the player’s foot after a match quickly went viral.

Park, who was appointed as the head coach of the U-23 Vietnamese national football team in October, led his players to a runner-up finish at the 2018 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-23 Championship.

Even when Vietnam lost the final match to Uzbekistan, the 59-year-old coach gently patted them on their backs as a gesture of support and said, “Now is not the time to shed tears. We must say our thanks to the citizens who cheered for us.”

Park Joo-bong, head coach of the Japanese badminton team, has also led his team to a successful Asian Games, as the men’s team defeated Korea 3-0 in the quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals for the first time in 48 years.

Japan’s defeat of Korea was a huge upset - the Korean men’s team finished without a medal for the first time since the 1978 Games in Bangkok.

Park is a legend in Korean badminton. He won a gold medal in the men’s doubles at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and has been coaching the Japanese badminton team since 2004.

Under his guidance, the Japanese team, which used to be heavily influenced by club teams, is now focused more on the national team and has improved its teamwork.

He has also gained the players’ trust by training with them and teaching himself Japanese to better communicate with them. The results speak for themselves - Japan won gold in women’s doubles at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“Since 1998, Japan has never won gold at the Asian Games. So I really want [the team to win gold] this time.”

Though the men’s team finished with a bronze, Park has successfully led the women’s team to gold, as they defeated China 3-1 in the finals on Wednesday.

Lee Man-soo, the manager of the Laotian baseball team, is responsible for bringing the country’s baseball team to its first ever Asian Games. Lee, the former manager of the SK Wyverns, is now working as vice president of the Laos Baseball Association and the general manager of the team. Just four years after he took the helm, the young team is making its Asian Games debut.

Lee brought in former KBO player and Daegu High School manager Kwon Young-jin to manage the team, but he is always in the dugout in a Team Laos uniform to offer support and advice.

During his career as a catcher in the KBO during the 1980s, Lee was the first player to reach 100 and 200 career home runs. Lee, nicknamed “Hulk” for his big home runs, started spreading the sport in the country by donating baseball equipment in 2014. When he quit as the Wyverns’ manager in 2014, he left for Laos and established a baseball team called “Lao Brothers.”

When Lee first started coaching baseball in the country there were hardly any players who knew how to grip a baseball, but just four years later the team was ready for the Asian Games.

There are now 150 baseball players in Laos. In June, Lee invited the Laotian players to Korea to watch KBO games and high school baseball games. In Laos they call him the father of Laos baseball.

Although Laos didn’t win a single game at the 2018 Asian Games, the fledgling team still made an impressive debut on the international stage.

There are other sports that have benefitted from Korean coaches. Former Korean archers are expanding their coaching careers internationally, with seven different countries at the Asiad competing under Korean tutelage.

BY KIM WON, PARK RIN [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]
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