When Sunderland were first linked with signing a South Korean kid called Ji Dong-Won several weeks ago, you could almost here the clattering of keys in Sunderland directing eyes towards Wikipedia and YouTube videos. When it became apparent it was a strong possibility that he would complete a transfer to the Stadium of Light this summer, Roker Report head-honcho Simon Walsh decided, in his infinite hilarity, that it would be a right proper giggle to have me write an informative little piece about the player – which can be seen here.
Despite my sterling and extensive research which, despite reports to the contrary, didn't revolve around a Football Manager 2011 screen-shot, my insight was lacking. That wasn't good enough for us, though, because at Roker Report we consider it to be our fundamental duty to bring you the very best and most comprehensive Sunderland AFC coverage there is. So I scoured the globe (thanks internet) and found you someone who could provide you the insight on Ji Dong-Won that I was unable to myself.
It is at this point that a chap called Seungmin Lee deserves a massive shout-out. I was put in contact with Seungmin when my hunger for knowledge regarding Korean football became known and, although a knowledgeable and excellent blogger on all things K-League himself, he provided us with what basically equated to the holy grail of our search – a Chunnam Dragons fan AND a member of the Korean national team supporters club. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to Kim Kyoung-Je and present to you his insight on the first ever Korean to represent Sunderland.
So Ji Dong-Won has joined Sunderland. What can you tell us about him?
Kim: He's a natural-born striker. Good at scoring with his head and feet, he is a versatile player who can play wide positions - we can say he is a Korean Raul Gonzales (Real Madrid). His weakness is fitness. Still, he is a young player, so he would expect to learn how to handle it in England.
If you were to compare him to any forward currently playing in the Premier League or elsewhere in Europe, who would it be?
Kim: As I mentioned above, Raul Gonzales is a similar player to him in style. Well balanced and scores goals consistently - although his nickname here was "Gwangyang-man (Gwanyang Bay) Rooney"
Where does Ji currently rate amongst the top prospects in Asia and Korea specifically?
Kim: He is not the best striker in K-League but regarded as one of the most prominent young strikers. Many pundits and media regard him as the stand-out member of the 'next-generation' Korean national team.
Ji emerged from the recent Asia Games with many positive headlines. As a result of his performances in the competition, would you say he has now established himself as an important part of the Korean national team?
Kim: He is not a starting eleven player for Korean national team quite yet. Particularly, his performance for the Korean Olympics(U-23) team against Jordan was frustrating.
Although he is moving to Sunderland, Ji Dong-Won should get more national team games and prove his worth again. He is one of the best players available to the team.
Sunderland have had a rough time with integrating South Americans into the Premier League of late due to the league's physically demanding nature. Would you consider Dong-Won likely to be able to adapt to English football?
Kim: Of course there could be a fitness problem but he already knows what English football is through early parts of his life when he was a youth player at Reading. Moreover, it is a great opportunity to improve himself as a player.
Was there any surprise in Korea that Sunderland were able to sign the player ahead of the likes of PSV and Schalke?
Kim: Actually, Korean football fans regard the English Premier League as the top flight of world football. Like any Asian fans you know, they prefer the 'big clubs'. If Ki Sueng-Yong of Celtic, for example, had a chance to move to Sunderland, they would say 'yes, you should move'.
According to reports PSV, who had Korean Football heroes like Park Ji-Sung, Lee Young-Pyo and Guus Hiddink, was the big challenger to Sunderland but most people say it is good move for him.
Sunderland are not noted for being a club with any great global appeal or interest, but is the acquisition of Dong-Won likely to generate a new and fervent interest in the club in Korea?
Kim: Koreans are well-known for their nationalism, although it only applies for the nationwide representatives like Park Ji-Sung, Kim Yeona and Park Chu-Young. They worship them. A great example being loyal Manchester United Korean fans who hung the banner 'Here is another Old Trafford' on the Seoul World Cup Stadium.
So, as long as Ji Dong-Won's name is in the starting eleven, Sunderland will be loved by Koreans. Of course, at the same time, the Black Cats need to be towards the top of the league, or they would just say "Ji should move to the bigger clubs".
We'd like to extend our sincerest thanks to Seungmin and Kim for all their time and effort. You can see more of Seungmin with his contributions to the excellent Asian Football Feast.