Choe Song-hyok (Korean최성혁, born February 8, 1998) is a North Korean professional footballer who plays as a midfielder for Italian club Arezzo and the North Korean national team.[2]

Choe Song-hyok
Personal information
Date of birth (1998-02-08) 8 February 1998 (age 21)
Place of birth Pyongyang, North Korea[1]
Height 1.76 m (5 ft 9 in)
Playing position Midfielder
Club information
Current team
Number 32
Youth career
–2016 Chobyong
2016 Fiorentina
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2017–2018 Perugia 0 (0)
2018Olbia (loan) 5 (0)
2018– Arezzo 2 (0)
National team
2014 North Korea U16 (4)
2015 North Korea U17 4 (0)
2016 North Korea U19 2 (0)
2018 North Korea U23 2 (0)
2018– North Korea 3 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 2 July 2019
‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 2 July 2019
Choe Song-hyok
Revised RomanizationChoe Songhyeok
McCune–ReischauerCh'oe Songhyŏk

Club careerEdit

Youth careerEdit

Choe started out with Chobyong, a North Korean academy known for developing young talent.[3][4] Choe signed with Italian club Fiorentina in February 2016, joining the Primavera (under-19) squad.[3] On March 5, he made his debut for Fiorentina Primavera, during a 4–2 victory over Virtus Entella U19. In doing so, he became the first North Korean footballer to ever make an appearance for an Italian club at any level.[3][4]

However, problems related to his nationality quickly began arising, and he only made three more appearances with the team.[5] It was reported that the North Korean regime had placed strict restrictions on him during his time abroad. In addition to them keeping his travel documents, he was not allowed to use the internet, nor have relations with the media or teammates, unless directly related to football.[4][6] Additionally, it was rumored that his signing bonus and 70% of his future salary would be repatriated to his home country. For this reason, in May, the Italian Parliament requested that the government review the contract.[7] The following month, Fiorentina decided to terminate his contract.[3] Choe took the matter to court, and the Italian Football Federation ruled that the club was obligated to continue honoring the contract. Subsequently, Fiorentina appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, arguing that the contract should be invalidated because they were not aware that it violated international sanctions at the time of its signing.[8]

Professional careerEdit

In July 2017, Choe signed a three-year deal with Serie B side Perugia.[9]

After only two appearances with the club (both with the under-19 squad), Choe was loaned out to fellow Serie C side Olbia in January 2018.[1] He made his long-awaited professional debut on February 25, replacing Roberto Biancu in the late minutes of a 1–0 defeat to Robur Siena.[10]

On 13 July 2018, he signed with another Serie C club Arezzo.[11]

International careerEdit

Choe gained prominence by leading the North Korea U16s to a first-place finish at the 2014 AFC U-16 Championship, scoring the game-winning strike against South Korea in the final.[3]

Choe was also named to the North Korea U-17 national team that competed in the North Korea U17 squad at the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup, where he made four appearances.[12] However, North Korea was knocked off in the round of 16 by Mali.

He earned two caps for the national under-19 team at the 2016 AFC U-19 Championship, and two more at the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship.

He made his debut for his nation's senior squad on 25 December 2018 in a friendly against Vietnam.[13]



North Korea U16


  1. ^ a b "UFFICIALE Olbia: c'è la firma di Choe Song Hyok". SardegnaSport. January 29, 2018. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  2. ^ "North Korea - Choe Song-Hyok - Profile with news, career statistics and history - Soccerway". Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e "The strange ballad of Choe Song Hyok". Viola Nation. SB Nation. February 9, 2017. Retrieved May 16, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Fantini, Daniele (March 27, 2016). "Dal regime della bomba atomica alla Fiorentina: la storia di Choe Song-Hyok" (in Italian). Eurosport. Retrieved May 16, 2018.
  5. ^ "Scontro Figc-Fiorentina: 'Reintegrate e pagate Choe'. Ma i viola dicono no" (in Italian). October 6, 2016. Retrieved May 16, 2018.
  6. ^ Oddi, Francesco (August 4, 2016). "La Fiorentina molla Choe, finisce la favola del nordcoreano della Primavera" (in Italian). La Gazzetta dello Sport. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  7. ^ Ryall, Julian (May 27, 2016). "North Korea suspected of 'extorting' young footballer's wages". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved May 16, 2018.
  8. ^ "Caso Choe Song-Hyok, la Fiorentina ricorre contro il calciatore e si rivolge al Collegio di Garanzia: i dettagli" (in Italian). Fiorentina News. February 8, 2017. Retrieved May 16, 2018.
  9. ^ Marrone, Claudia (July 14, 2017). "UFFICIALE: Perugia, triennale per Choe Song Hyok" (in Italian). Tutto Mercato Web. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  10. ^ "Serie C Girone A 2017/2018 » 27. Giornata » Diretta scritta: Robur Siena - Olbia 1:0" (in Italian). Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  11. ^ "Choe Song Hyok: the first North Korean for Arezzo" (in Italian). U.S. Arezzo. 13 July 2018.
  12. ^ Fantoni, Stefano (March 8, 2016). "Dalla Corea del Nord con furore: Fiorentina, ecco Choe Song-Hyok" (in Italian). Retrieved May 16, 2018.
  13. ^ "Vietnam vs North Korea game report". ESPN. 25 December 2018.

External linksEdit