Hong Hyun-seok arrives in Belgium with K.A.A. Gent
U-23 midfielder Hong Hyun-seok's transfer to Belgian club K.A.A. Gent was confirmed Tuesday, with the rising star announcing in a press conference that he saw the move as a chance to further develop his game.
K.A.A. Gent, known as Ghent, officially announced Tuesday that Hong had joined the club from Austrian side LASK and will wear the number seven. According to reports, the deal was worth 1.5 million euros ($1.5 million).
In a press conference after the signing on Tuesday, Hong said that Ghent was a high-quality club offering a chance to further develop and possibly the opportunity to play in the Europa League this season, a step up from LASK, which played in the Europa Conference League last year.
K.A.A. Gent are the reigning champions of the Belgian Cup, earning the chance to compete in the Europa League playoffs this season.
If Ghent beats Cypriot side Omonia in the playoff on Aug. 18, the club will advance to the Europa League finals alongside teams like Manchester United, Arsenal, Roma and Freiburg. If they lose, they'll drop down to the Europa Conference League alongside teams like West Ham and Villareal.
Ghent also has experience playing in the Champions League in the 2015-16 season, and Tottenham Hotspur fans may remember that it was Ghent that knocked the London club out of the 2016-17 Europa League.
Hong, who was called up to the U-23 Korean national team for the first time this year, has appeared in all three LASK games so far this season, picking up one assist and helping the club rise to the top of the Austrian Bundesliga with two wins and one draw.
Hong joined LASK in July last year and appeared in 23 games with the Austrian club, picking up five assists. He also played in eight Europa Conference League games, where he added two more assists and picked up a goal against Armenian side FC Alashkert in the group stage.
Hong is a rising star that has picked up three caps for the Korean U-23 team and played his youth career with Ulsan Hyundai in the K League. Before joining LASK he played for Austrian side Juniors OÖ and German club Unterhaching. He plays predominantly as a central midfielder.
"I went to the training ground for a while today," Hong said. "It is such an honor to be the first Korean to play in Ghent and I am excited and looking forward to the next game. I hope I can be of great help to this team by showing 100 percent of my abilities."
Hong encouraged Ghent fans to call him "Hongi," worrying that his full name may be too difficult to pronounce.
BY JIM BULLEY [firstname.lastname@example.org]