North Korean soccer star Jong Tae-se is set to join one of South Korea’s most popular clubs, the Suwon Samsung Bluewings, according to a team official.
Jong, 28, has been playing professional soccer in Germany since impressing at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa as a key player for North Korea. Despite realizing his lifelong dream of playing in Europe, he demanded a transfer recently after he spent majority of his time at FC Cologne on the bench.
“We’ve reached an agreement with Cologne to transfer Jong to us,” Suwon general manager Lee Ho-seung told AFP. “Jong will arrive here as early as next Monday for a medical test. If he passes, we will sign a contract with him.”
When the formalities are sorted out, Suwon will pay Cologne $395,000 as the transfer fee for Jong, who is set to receive a three-year deal worth $376,000 a year.
If the signing materializes, Jong would become the fourth North Korean to play in the K-League after Ryang Gyu-sa, Kim Young-hwi and An Young-hak.
However, Jong would undoubtedly become the biggest name from North Korea to play in the K-League, having been the face of the North Korean national team in recent years.
Jong was born in Japan to a North Korean mother and a South Korean father, but holds a North Korean passport. He recently told the Korean press that he wishes to play the role of an “ambassador” between North Korea, South Korea, and Japan — three countries often mired in geopolitical tensions due to human rights issues and territorial disputes.
“North Korea is a country that raised me,” Jong said. “But Japan is where I was born and South Korea is where I call home. If I’m given the chance to play in South Korea, I would like to be an ambassador who can help the two Koreas reach unification one day.”