Jeju United's Jung Jo-gook retires after 18-year careerJeju United forward Jung Jo-gook officially ended his 18-year career on Monday.
During the K League 2 Awards 2020 on Monday, Jung received the lifetime achievement award and announced his retirement.
“I’ve worked and played really hard throughout all this time for the K League,” Jung said during the K League 2 Awards ceremony. “And finally, I think now is the time for me to let go. That’s how I got to make an official announcement [to retire].”
Jung thanked his family and everyone who has supported him throughout his pro career, as well as head coach Nam Ki-il for allowing him to finish the season on a high note.
Jung made his K League debut in 2003 with the Anyang LG Cheetahs, now FC Seoul. Having scored 12 goals with two assists throughout 32 matches in his rookie season, Jung took the K League’s Rookie of the Year Award.
During his career with Seoul, Jung also got to spend a season overseas with AJ Auxerre of France's Ligue 1. While playing for AJ Auxerre, Jung also played for French club AS Nancy on loan, before returning to the K League in 2012.
Having returned to Korea after only one season, Jung finally reached the peak of his career in 2016, when he played for Gwangju FC. Throughout the season he scored 20 goals in 31 matches, good enough to win the K League’s top scoring award. Along with the scoring award, he was also named MVP.
That dominant season came as quite a surprise as Gwangju actually finished eighth in the regular season that year.
By winning two awards that year, Jung became only the third player in the K League history to win all three major awards — rookie of the year, MVP and top scorer.
Jung joined Gangwon FC in 2017 with high expectations. Despite his ambitions, Jung was unable to repeat his 2016 performance as he finished his first season with Gangwon by scoring just five goals throughout 31 matches.
Due to this, many said that Jung’s career was over. Right when he was staring at the finish line, Jung accepted a transfer to Jeju United. This was the first time in his K League career that Jung had played for a K League 2 team.
Although it was a K League 2 club, Jung jumped at the chance to move to Jeju because of the team's manager Nam Ki-il, who coached him back when he won the scoring title in 2016.
With Jeju, Jung only scored one goal throughout 12 matches, but he still managed to finish his season on a high note as Jeju won the K League 2 title to earn promotion to the K League 1 for the 2021 season.
Although Jung’s 18-year career as a pro footballer has ended, he said that he will return to the scene as a coach in the near future.
“I’ll learn and gain more experience so I can return as a great coach,” Jung said.
Along with Jung’s retirement, Jeju had something to celebrate during the awards ceremony as head coach Nam was named Coach of the Year.
BY KANG YOO-RIM [email@example.com]