|Organising body||Korea Football Association|
K League Federation
Korea Football Association
K League Federation
|Divisions||K League 1|
K League 2
|Number of teams||25|
|Level on pyramid||1–2|
|Domestic cup(s)||Korean FA Cup|
|International cup(s)||AFC Champions League|
|Current champions||Ulsan Hyundai (2023)|
|Most championships||Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors|
|TV partners||JTBC Golf&Sports|
Sky Sports (South Korea)
2023 K League 1
2023 K League 2
Until the 1970s, South Korean football operated two major football leagues, the National Semi-professional Football League and the National University Football League, but these were not professional leagues in which footballers could focus on only football. In 1979, however, the Korea Football Association (KFA)'s president Choi Soon-young planned to found a professional football league, and made South Korea's first professional football club Hallelujah FC the next year. After the South Korean professional baseball league KBO League was founded in 1982, the KFA was aware of crisis about the popularity of football. In 1983, it urgently made the Korean Super League with two professional clubs (Hallelujah FC, Yukong Elephants) and three semi-professional clubs (POSCO Dolphins, Daewoo Royals, Kookmin Bank) to professionalize South Korean football. Then, the Super League accomplished its purpose after existing clubs were also converted into professional clubs (POSCO Atoms, Daewoo Royals) and new professional clubs joined the league. In the early years, it also showed a promotion system by giving qualifications to the Semi-professional League winners. (Hanil Bank in 1984, Sangmu FC in 1985)
However, the number of spectators was consistently decreased despite KFA's effort, and so the professional league, renamed as the Korean Professional Football League, operated home and away system to interest fans since 1987. On 30 July 1994, the Professional League Committee under KFA was independent of the association, and renamed as the "Korean Professional Football Federation". In 1996, South Korean government and the Football Federation introduced a decentralization policy to proliferate the popularity of football nationally in preparation for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, which they wanted to host. Several clubs located in the capital Seoul moved to other cities according to the new policy, but this was abolished after only three years and is regarded as a failed policy because it gave up the most populous city in South Korea. In 1998, the league was renamed again as current K League.
It had the current format by abolishing the K League Championship and the Korean League Cup after the 2011 season, and being split into two divisions in 2013. The first division's name was the K League Classic, and the second division's name was the K League Challenge at the time. The fact that both the first and the second divisions had very similar names caused some degree of confusion and controversy. Beginning with the 2018 season, both divisions were renamed the K League 1 and the K League 2 respectively.
On February 23, 2021, an OTT platform named "K League TV" officially began its service: born from a partnership between K League and their official relay operator abroad, Sportradar, the platform would guarantee access to users from almost the whole world (except for Korea), broadcast K League 1 and K League 2 matches in real time and host game highlights and interviews. K League TV also represented the first official portal to publish content about both the championships in English.
Below the K League 1, there is the K League 2, and both form the K League as professional championships. Under them, there are two semi-professional leagues (K3 League, K4 League) and several amateur leagues, but their clubs cannot be promoted to K League.
Promotion and Relegation between K League 2 and third tier K3 League starting from 2023 season after nine seasons did not feature promotion and relegation.
Current clubs edit
K League 1 edit
- Has two home stadiums
K League 2 edit
All-time clubs edit
As of 2023, there have been a total of 36 member clubs in the history of the K League – those clubs are listed below with their current names (where applicable):
- K League's principle of official statistics is that final club succeeds to predecessor club's history and records.
- Clubs in italics no longer exist.
|1||POSCO Dolphins[a] (1983–1984)
POSCO Atoms (1985–1994)
Pohang Atoms (1995–1996)
Pohang Steelers (1997–present)
|2||Hallelujah FC[b] (1983–1985)||Shindongah Group|
|3||Yukong Elephants (1983–1995)
Bucheon Yukong (1996–1997)
Bucheon SK (1997–2005)
Jeju United (2006–present)
|4||Daewoo Royals[c] (1983–1995)
Busan Daewoo Royals (1996–1999)
Busan I'Cons (2000–2004)
Busan IPark (2005–present)
HDC Group (2000–present)
|5||Kookmin Bank[d] (1983–1984)||Kookmin Bank|
|6||Hyundai Horang-i (1984–1995)
Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i (1996–2007)
Ulsan Hyundai (2008–present)
|Hyundai Motor Company (1984–1997)|
Hyundai Heavy Industries (1998–present)
|7||Lucky-Goldstar Hwangso (1984–1990)
LG Cheetahs (1991–1995)
Anyang LG Cheetahs (1996–2003)
FC Seoul (2004–present)
|LG Group (1984–2004)|
GS Group (2004–present)
|8||Hanil Bank FC (1984–1986)||Hanil Bank|
|9[e]||Sangmu FC (1985)||Korea Armed Forces Athletic Corps|
|10||Ilhwa Chunma (1989–1995)
Cheonan Ilhwa Chunma (1996–1999)
Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma (2000–2013)
Seongnam FC (2014–present)
|Ilwha Company (1989–2013)|
Seongnam Government (2014–present)
|11||Chonbuk Buffalo (1994)||Bobae Soju|
|12||Jeonbuk Dinos (1995–1996)
Jeonbuk Hyundai Dinos (1997–1999)
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (2000–present)
|Hyunyang Company (1995–1999)|
Hyundai Motor Company (1995–present)
|13||Jeonnam Dragons (1995–present)||POSCO|
|14||Suwon Samsung Bluewings (1996–present)||Samsung Electronics (1996–2014)|
Cheil Worldwide (2014–present)
|15||Daejon Citizen (1997–2019)
Daejeon Hana Citizen (2020–present)
|Dong Ah Group (1997–1998)|
Chungchong Bank (1997–1998)
Dongyang Department Store (1997–1999)
Kyeryong Construction Company (1997–2002)
Daejeon Government (2003–2019)
Hana Financial Group (2020–present)
|16[e]||Gwangju Sangmu (2003–2010)||Korea Armed Forces Athletic Corps|
|17||Daegu FC (2003–present)||Daegu Government|
|18||Incheon United (2004–present)||Incheon Government|
|19||Gyeongnam FC (2006–present)||Gyeongnam Provincial Government|
|20||Gangwon FC (2009–present)||Gangwon Provincial Government|
|21[e]||Sangju Sangmu (2011–2020)||Korea Armed Forces Athletic Corps|
|22||Gwangju FC (2011–present)||Gwangju Government|
|23[f]||Police FC (2013)
Ansan Police (2014–2015)
Ansan Mugunghwa (2016)
|KNP Sports Club|
Ansan Government (2014–2016)
|24||Goyang Hi FC[g] (2013–2015)
Goyang Zaicro (2016)
|25||Chungju Hummel[h] (2013–2016)||Hummel Korea|
|26||Suwon FC[i] (2013–present)||Suwon Government|
|27||Bucheon FC 1995 (2013–present)||Bucheon Government|
|28||FC Anyang (2013–present)||Anyang Government|
|29||Seoul E-Land (2015–present)||E-Land Group|
|30[f]||Asan Mugunghwa (2017–2019)||KNP Sports Club|
|31||Ansan Greeners (2017–present)||Ansan Government|
|32||Chungnam Asan (2020–present)||Asan Government|
Chungnam Provincial Government
|33[e]||Gimcheon Sangmu (2021–present)||Korea Armed Forces Athletic Corps|
|34||Gimpo FC[j] (2022–present)||Gimpo Government|
|35||Cheonan City[k] (2023–present)||Cheonan Government|
|36||Chungbuk Cheongju[l] (2023–present)||Cheongju Government|
- Founded as a semi-professional club "POSCO FC" on 1 April 1973.
- Founded as a semi-professional club on 20 December 1980
- Founded as a semi-professional club "Saehan Motors" on 22 November 1979
- Founded as a semi-professional club on 29 September 1969
- Sangmu, Gwangju Sangmu, Sangju Sangmu and Gimcheon Sangmu are separate legal entities according to the K League Federation
- Ansan Mugunghwa and Asan Mugunghwa are separate legal entities according to the K League Federation
- Founded as a semi-professional club "Hallelujah FC" on 3 April 1999
- Founded as a semi-professional club "Hummel FC" on 9 December 1999
- Founded as a semi-professional club "Suwon City" on 15 March 2003
- Founded as a semi-professional club "Gimpo Citizen" on 29 January 2013
- Founded as a semi-professional club in 2008
- Founded as a semi-professional club "Cheongju FC" in 2002
Promotion-relegation playoffs edit
The K League promotion-relegation playoffs were introduced in 2013 and are contested between the eleventh-placed team of the K League 1 and the runners-up of the K League 2. The first leg is always played at the second division team's home ground, while the second leg is played at the first division team's home ground.
|Season||K League 1||Aggregate||K League 2||1st leg||2nd leg|
|2013||Gangwon FC||2–4||Sangju Sangmu||1–4||1–0|
|2014||Gyeongnam FC||2–4||Gwangju FC||1–3||1–1|
|2015||Busan IPark||0–3||Suwon FC||0–1||0–2|
|2016||Seongnam FC||1–1 (a)||Gangwon FC||0–0||1–1|
|2017||Sangju Sangmu||1–1 (5–4 p)||Busan IPark||1–0||0–1 (a.e.t.)|
|2018||FC Seoul||4–2||Busan IPark||3–1||1–1|
|2019||Gyeongnam FC||0–2||Busan IPark||0–0||0–2|
|2021||Gangwon FC||4–2||Daejeon Hana Citizen||0–1||4–1|
|2022||Suwon Samsung Bluewings||2–1||FC Anyang||0–0||2–1 (a.e.t.)|
|Gimcheon Sangmu||1–6||Daejeon Hana Citizen||1–2||0–4|
- Two K League 1 teams were relegated, and so the runners-up of K League 2 were directly promoted.
Records and statistics edit
- As of 25 November 2020
|Offense points[a]||Lee Dong-gook||305|
|Clean sheets||Kim Byung-ji||229|
|Longest goal||Kwon Jung-hyuk||85 m|
|Fastest goal||Bang Seung-hwan||00:11|
|Fastest assist||Lee Jae-sung||00:18|
- The sum of goals and assists
Restriction of foreign players edit
At the inception of the K League in 1983, only two Brazilian players made rosters. At the time, rules allowed each club to have three foreign players and that the three could also play simultaneously in a game. From the 1996 season, each team had five foreign players among whom three could play in a game at the same time. Since 1999, foreign goalkeepers are banned from the league because South Korean clubs excessively employed foreign goalkeepers after watching Valeri Sarychev's performances at that time. In 2001 and 2002, the limit on foreign players was expanded to seven but only three could play in a game at the same time. The limit was lowered to five in 2003, four in 2005, and three in 2007. Since 2009, the number of foreign players went back up to four per team, including a slot for a player from AFC countries. Since 2020, Southeast Asian players can be registered under the ASEAN Quota.
|1996–2000||3||5||The number of foreign goalkeepers' appearances was limited in 1997 and 1998,|
and their employment is being banned since 1999.
|2001–2002||3||7||Temporary operation due to frequent call-ups of the World Cup team.|
|2009–2019||3+1||3+1||+1 AFC player|
|2020–present||3+1+1||3+1+1||+1 AFC player +1 Southeast Asian player; only used by K League 2 since 2023.|
|2023–present||3+1||5+1||+1 AFC player; only used by K League 1.|
Relocation of clubs edit
In early years, the hometowns of K League clubs were determined, but they were pointless in substance because the clubs played all K League matches by going around all stadiums together. The current home and away system is being operated since 1987. The clubs were relocated from provinces to cities in 1990, but clubs are currently based in their area regardless of province and city since 1994. In 1996, the decentralization policy was operated. In result 3 clubs based in Seoul were relocated. Since 1996, it is obligatory for all clubs to include hometown name in their club name.
|Club||National tour system (1983–1986)||Home and away system (1987–present)|
|Pohang Steelers||Daegu–Gyeongbuk (1983)||Daegu–Gyeongbuk → Pohang (1988[a])|
|Jeju United||Seoul–Incheon–Gyeonggi (1983) → Seoul (1984)||Seoul → Incheon–Gyeonggi (1987) → Seoul (1991) → Bucheon (2001[b]) → Jeju (2006)|
|Busan IPark||Busan–Gyeongnam (1983)||Busan–Gyeongnam → Busan (1989[c])|
|Ulsan Hyundai||Incheon–Gyeonggi (1984) → Incheon–Gyeonggi–Gangwon (1986)||Gangwon (1987) → Ulsan (1990)|
|FC Seoul||Chungnam–Chungbuk (1984)||Chungnam–Chungbuk → Seoul (1990) → Anyang (1996) → Seoul (2004)|
|Seongnam FC||—||Seoul (1989) → Cheonan (1996) → Seongnam (2000)|
|Gimcheon Sangmu[d]||—||Gwangju (2003) → Sangju (2011) → Gimcheon (2021)|
|Asan Mugunghwa[e]||—||Unlocated[f] (2013) → Ansan (2014) → Asan (2017)|
- K League officially introduced the relocation policy to cities in 1990, but POSCO Atoms already followed it in 1988.
- Bucheon Yukong decided Bucheon as its new city in 1996, but played its home matches at Mokdong Stadium located in Mok-dong, Seoul until 2000, because Bucheon Stadium was under construction during that time.
- K League officially introduced the relocation policy to cities in 1990, but Daewoo Royals already followed it in 1989.
- Gwangju Sangmu, Sangju Sangmu, and Gimcheon Sangmu are separate legal entities according to K League. Officially not relocated and founded as a new club.
- Police FC, Ansan Police, and Asan Mugunghwa are separate legal entities according to K League. Officially not relocated and re-founded as a new civil club named Chungnam Asan, in 2019.
- Played all matches at away stadiums.
Annual awards edit
- K League Most Valuable Player Award
- K League Top Scorer Award
- K League Top Assist Provider Award
- K League Young Player of the Year Award
- K League Manager of the Year Award
- K League Best XI
- K League FANtastic Player
Hall of Fame edit
|2023||Choi Soon-ho||Stars||POSCO Atoms (1983–1987, 1991)
Lucky-Goldstar Hwangso (1988–1990)
|2023||Hong Myung-bo||Stars||Pohang Steelers (1992–1997, 2002)|||
|2023||Shin Tae-yong||Stars||Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma (1992–2004)|||
|2023||Lee Dong-gook||Stars||Pohang Steelers (1998–2002, 2005–2006)
Gwangju Sangmu (2003–2005)
Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma (2008)
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (2009–2020)
|2023||Kim Jung-nam||Leaders||Yukong Elephants (1985–1992)
Ulsan Hyundai (2000–2008)
|2023||Park Tae-joon||Honors||Pohang Steelers
|None||1983–1993||Korean Professional Football League|
|Hite||1994–1995||Hite Cup Korean League|
|Rapido||1996–1997||Rapido Cup Professional Football League|
|Hyundai Group||1998||Hyundai Cup K-League|
|Hyundai Securities||1999||Buy Korea Cup K-League|
|Samsung Electronics||2000||Samsung DigiTall K-League|
|Samsung Electronics||2002||Samsung PAVV K-League|
|2003–2008||Samsung Hauzen K-League|
|Hyundai Motor Company||2010||Sonata K League|
|Hyundai Oilbank||2011–2016||Hyundai Oilbank K League|
|Hana Bank||2017–2018||KEB Hana Bank K League|
|2019–present||Hana 1Q K League|
See also edit
- "In search of Korea's disappearing Red Devils". Korea JoongAng Daily. 6 June 2012. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
- "South Korean Teams Fight for Attention at Home". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
- "崔蹴協회장 후원회는 法人등록 北韓·中共과도 교류". Naver.com (in Korean). Kyunghyang. 31 January 1979. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
- 韓國球界 「프로時代」올것인가 「할렐루야」蹴球團 10월 창단을 계기로 본 「難題」속의 期待‥‥그展望과문제점. Naver.com (in Korean). The Chosun Ilbo. 18 April 1980. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
- Kim, Deok-gi (16 January 2013). [김덕기의 프로축구 10950] 슈퍼리그, 1983년 5월8일 팡파르. Naver.com (in Korean). Sportalkorea. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
- 프로蹴球 명예回復 선언. Naver.com (in Korean). Kyunghyang. 24 February 1987. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
- 서울 연고 이랜드프로축구단 출범…FC서울과 '투톱'. Naver.com (in Korean). Korea Economic Daily. 2 May 2014. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
- 위원석의 하프타임 'K리그'에 새로운 이름을 붙여주자 (in Korean). Sports Seoul. 19 February 2013. Archived from the original on 11 December 2013.
- "K League OTT Platform Launched for Overseas Fans - K LEAGUE / K리그". www.kleague.com. 23 February 2021. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
- "K3·K4리그 대표자회의 개최...3월 7일 개막". www.kfa.or.kr. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
- "K League Data Portal" (in Korean). K League. Retrieved 28 August 2021.
- [원투펀치 328회 2부] K리그 역대 베스트 키퍼 Top7. TV.Kakao.com (in Korean). Daum. 24 September 2018. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
- "News: K League to Introduce ASEAN Quota in 2020". K League United. Retrieved 21 December 2019.
- K League history - 1983 season (in Korean). K League. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 24 December 2020.
- ‘K리그 명예의 전당’ 초대 헌액자 발표 (in Korean). K League. 16 March 2023. Retrieved 16 March 2023.
- Official K League website (in English)