Return of the queen: Kim Yeon-koung rejoins the Pink Spiders
Korean volleyball legend and former captain of the women's national volleyball team Kim Yeon-koung has signed a one-year, 700-million-won ($542,000) deal to rejoin the Incheon Heungkuk Life Pink Spiders in the domestic V-league.
The Pink Spiders announced Tuesday that Kim will earn 450 million won in guaranteed salary and up to 250 million won in incentives.
Kim debuted in 2005 with the Incheon club and moved overseas for the first time in 2009, joining a Japanese club.
The last time Kim played for the Pink Spiders was in the 2020-21 season, when she returned for one season after 11 years playing in Japan, China and Turkey.
Kim then jetted off to Shanghai in May of 2021 to join the Shanghai Bright Ubest Women's Volleyball Club, returning to the team four years after she led it to the top of the Chinese Super League in the 2017-18 season to snap a 17-year drought. The team finished runner-up in the championship that year.
At the time, the Pink Spiders, who Kim is still contractually bound to if she plays in Korea, made it clear that an offer was always on the table, rebuffing the suggestion of a trade to the Pepper Savings Bank at the start of the season.
After having spent a restless 2020-21 season, playing a total of 41 games including the KOVO Cup, all regular season games and the championship playoffs, one of the main reasons Kim chose the Shanghai club seemed to be because of the shorter season.
This January, Kim became a free agent internationally after rounding off the Chinese Volleyball Super League season with Shanghai Bright Ubest finishing the 2021-22 season in third place.
Kim became a free agent internationally after the Chinese season finished and headed to the United States for training. At the time it looked unlikely that she would return to KOVO where she remains under contract with the Pink Spiders for one more season.
After Kim recently returned home from training in the United States, the Heungkuk Life Pink Spiders reportedly reached out to Kim to sign a deal.
“We want to welcome Kim Yeon-koung and her return to the league,” read an official statement from the Pink Spiders. “We are certain that Kim’s return will not only boost the performance of our club, but also of the entire domestic league.”
This comes as great news for domestic volleyball fans, especially as fans renewed their love for Kim last year when she led the national team to a fourth-place finish at the Games.
Going into the Games, Korea was seen as an underdog with little chance of reaching the semifinals. Not only was Korea ranked 13th in the world, the third-lowest ranked team at the Olympics, but it was also coming back from a disappointing second-to-last finish at the Volleyball Nations League in June.
Kim and the 11 other members of the Korean squad quickly became fan favorites, battling their way through eight matches against predominantly higher-ranked teams to reach the bronze medal match. The team arrived home without any silverware, but with little doubt in fans' minds that they had given it all they had.
And of course there was captain Kim, who somehow managed to be everywhere at all times.
Not only was Kim the second-best scorer of the entire Games, but also the first player to score more than 30 points in four matches at the Olympics.
Kim's popularity last year also made her the first volleyball player with more than one million subscribers on her YouTube channel and, according to some reports, the most tweeted female athlete in the world in 2021.
“I am happy to be able to meet domestic fans at our new home stadium, Samsan Stadium in Incheon,” Kim reportedly said on Tuesday.
“It has been a while playing with fans in the stands due to Covid-19. I am looking forward to the chance to put on a good performance."
BY YUN SO-HYANG [firstname.lastname@example.org]