K League 1
|Number of teams||12|
|Level on pyramid||1|
|Relegation to||K League 2|
|Domestic cup(s)||FA Cup|
|International cup(s)||AFC Champions League|
|Current champions||Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (6th title) |
|Most championships||Seongnam FC (7 titles)|
|TV partners||KBS+KBS N Sports, JTBC+JTBC3 Fox Sports, SPOTV|
|2019 K League 1|
|K League 1|
|Revised Romanization||K rigeu one|
|McCune–Reischauer||K rigŭ wŏn|
The K League 1 was founded in 1983 as the Korean Super League, with five member clubs. The initial five clubs were Hallelujah FC, Yukong Elephants, POSCO Dolphins, Daewoo Royals, Kookmin Bank FC. Hallelujah FC won the inaugural title, finishing one point ahead of Daewoo FC to lift the crown.
In 1998, Korea's football league was reformed and renamed the K League. The K League was then split into two divisions in 2013, the first division was renamed the K League Classic while the newly created second division was named the K League Challenge and both are now part of the K League structure. Since its creation, the league has expanded from an initial 5 to 22 clubs. Of the five inaugural clubs, only Yukong Elephants, POSCO Dolphins, and Daewoo Royals still competes in the K League; Kookmin Bank FC dropped out of the league at the end of 1984, and Hallelujah FC followed the season after.
On 22 January 2018 the official name was changed to K League 1.
Below the K League 1, there is the K League 2, and below the K League 2, there is the National League, a closed semi-professional/amateur league established in 2003. The fourth level of football in South Korea is the K3 League.
There was no official system of promotion and relegation. However, beginning in 2013, the champions of the K League 2 are eligible for promotion to the K League 1, provided that they meet certain criteria.
The K League season typically begins around March and runs to late November each year. The number of games, clubs and the systems used have varied through the years.
The K League champions, runners-up, and third-placed team gain entry to the AFC Champions League the following season, with the exception of Sangju Sangmu due to their unique status as an army team. The 12th team is automatically relegated, while the 11th team plays a match against the winner of the K League 2 promotion playoffs.
A number of the member clubs are owned by major South Korean chaebols. Those clubs have adopted local city names in an effort to integrate themselves more with the local communities. All other teams are owned by local governments.
In 1996, the K League franchise structure underwent a major change. Originally, when the franchise system was introduced in 1987, the K League club's franchise were big cities of South Korea like Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Incheon, Gwangju, and Daejeon. Some K League clubs gave up big-city franchise and relocated to mid-sized/small-city franchise like Ulsan and Pohang by 1990. In 1996, due to Decentralization policy in K League, K League clubs in Seoul were moved to Seoul's satellite cities of Anyang, Bucheon, and Cheonan.
Following the 2002 FIFA World Cup, co-hosted by South Korea and in which South Korea reached the semi-finals for the first time, leaders of the K League had hoped to transfer South Korea's passion for its national team to the domestic league. However, the K League continued to struggle for crowds. Although a number of K League clubs have relocated in the past, the Lucky Goldstar (LG) corporation caused a controversy[not specific enough to verify] at the end of 2003 when they made the decision to uproot their Anyang LG Cheetahs from the Seoul satellite city of Anyang and move into the empty Seoul World Cup Stadium, becoming FC Seoul. After the 2005 season, SK Group relocated the Bucheon SK to the island of Jeju, where they became Jeju United. This move was largely opposed by fans, who founded Bucheon FC 1995 in 2007 as a community-owned replacement club.
In the 2009 season, Gangwon FC joined the K League as its 15th member club. As such, the K League had one or more clubs in every South Korean province. This was the first time in domestic South Korean professional sports history that there has been at least one club in each South Korean province.
On 5 April 2010, Gwangju City announced a plan to establish a football club by the end of 2010 and to join the league for the 2011 season. On 12 October 2010, the club was approved to join the league as the 16th member club.
On 5 October 2011, the league announced a plan to introduce a relegation system from the 2012 season. The number of teams of the league was decreased to twelve teams starting with the 2014 season. Two teams were relegated in the 2012 season. In 2013, the bottom two teams were directly relegated, while the 12th team played a relegation playoff match against the winner of the K League Challenge. From the 2013 season, as the number of teams was reduced, only the 12th team is automatically relegated, with the 11th team playing a match against the winner of the K League 2 promotion playoffs. The league also introduced a split system like in the Scottish Premier League in the 2012 season, where each club plays each other three times in the regular round, then the top and bottom six teams are split into Split A and Split B, in which a team plays every other team in the split once, to decide the final standings.
|Club||Location||Stadium||First season||Current spell||Seasons[a]||Last title|
|Daegu FC||Daegu||DGB Daegu Bank Park||2003||2017–||14||—|
|Gangwon FC||Gangwon||Chuncheon Songam Stadium||2009||2017–||8||—|
|Gyeongnam FC||Changwon||Changwon Football Center||2006||2018–||11||—|
|Incheon United||Incheon||Incheon Football Stadium||2004||2004–||16||—|
|Jeju United||Jeju||Jeju World Cup Stadium||1983||1983–||37||1989|
|Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors||North Jeolla||Jeonju World Cup Stadium||1995||1995–||25||2018|
|Pohang Steelers||Pohang||Pohang Steel Yard||1983||1983–||37||2013|
|Sangju Sangmu||Sangju||Sangju Civic Stadium||2011||2016–||7||—|
|Seongnam FC||Seongnam||Tancheon Stadium||1987||2019–||29||2006|
|FC Seoul||Seoul||Seoul World Cup Stadium||1984||1984–||36||2016|
|Suwon Samsung Bluewings||Suwon||Suwon World Cup Stadium||1996||1996–||24||2008|
|Ulsan Hyundai||Ulsan||Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium||1984||1984–||36||2005|
- As of the start of the 2019 season.
- For details on K League Champions, see List of South Korean football champions.
Seongnam FC are the most successful team in terms of championship victories, having lifted the title on seven occasions.
Titles by seasonEdit
Titles by clubEdit
|Club||Champions||Winning seasons||Runners-up||Runners-up seasons|
|Seongnam FC||1993, 1994, 1995, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006||1992, 2007, 2009|
|FC Seoul||1985, 1990, 2000, 2010, 2012, 2016||1986, 1989, 1993, 2001, 2008|
|Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors||2009, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018||2012, 2016|
|Pohang Steelers||1986, 1988, 1992, 2007, 2013||1985, 1987, 1995, 2004|
|Suwon Samsung Bluewings||1998, 1999, 2004, 2008||1996, 2006, 2014, 2015|
|Busan IPark||1984, 1987, 1991, 1997||1983, 1990, 1999|
|Ulsan Hyundai||1996, 2005||1988, 1991, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2011, 2013|
|Jeju United||1989||1984, 1994, 2000, 2010, 2017|
- Official K League website (in English)