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S. Korean football players denounce end of recruitment at police football club

All Headlines 18:45 October 12, 2018

By Joo Kyung-don

SEOUL, Oct. 12 (Yonhap) -- Former and active South Korean football players on Friday denounced the abrupt halt to recruitment at a police football club.

South Korean football greats and players who previously had stints at Asan Mugunghwa FC, a club in the second-tier K League 2 run by the National Police Agency, issued a statement condemning the police's decision to stop selecting players.

"If Asan Mugunhwa stop recruiting players, they'll have only 14 players next year and will not be able to compete in the league," Kim Byung-ji, a former goalkeeper who represented South Korea at the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cups, said in a press conference at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul ahead of a friendly football match between South Korea and Uruguay. "If Asan Mugunghwa are disbanded, it will be a big shock to the players who were planning to join the club."

Former&nbspand&nbspactive&nbspSouth&nbspKorean&nbspfootball&nbspplayers,&nbspwith&nbspAsan&nbspMugunghwa&nbspfootball&nbspsupporters,&nbsphold&nbspa&nbspbanner&nbspasking&nbspfor&nbspsupport&nbspfor&nbspthe&nbsppolice&nbspfootball&nbspclub&nbspduring&nbspa&nbsppress&nbspconference&nbspat&nbspSeoul&nbspWorld&nbspCup&nbspStadium&nbspin&nbspSeoul&nbspon&nbspOct.&nbsp12,&nbsp2018. (Yonhap)

Mungunghwa FC are managed by the Korean National Police Academy. The franchise was founded in 1996 with the purpose of helping footballers stay in the game while fulfilling their mandatory military duties. The players who join Mugunghwa are part of the auxiliary police, completing their national duty as police officers after finishing basic military training.

The South Korean government last year announced it will abolish the auxiliary police by 2023 and recruitment will end by 2022. But the national police reportedly ordered the police academy to stop recruiting athletes immediately and disband police sports teams by next year.

"It's just painful that the club I played for during my military duty is going to be disbanded," said Yeom Ki-hun, a Suwon Samsung Bluewings midfielder who was with Mugunghwa between 2012 and 2013. "The reason why I can still play in the K League is the existence of the police club."

The players asked the police to have a probation period for the next two years and gradually reduce the number of the players.

"We're not opposing the government's policy," said Choi Jin-cheul, a member of the 2002 World Cup team. "We just need time to prepare for the police's decision and we want this issue to be dealt with in a step-by-step approach."

The K League, operator of the South Korean pro football league, has already warned that if Mugunghwa doesn't get new players this year, the team will not be able to compete in the league next year.

Mugunghwa are currently the leaders in the K League 2 standings. They have 26 players on the roster, but 12 of them will be discharged beginning next February. In order to compete in the K League, a team must have at least 20 players. Without new recruits, Mugunghwa will fall short of that number.

kdon@yna.co.kr
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