She sees Kim Yeon-kyung…”Is it a man?” The women’s soccer monster who was beaten up is back.
Colin Bell (England) is the first foreign coach of the South Korean women’s national soccer team. Here’s what he had to say about Park Eun-sun after an April trial against Zambia. Park Eun-sun (Seoul Metropolitan Government), who was recalled to the national team at the late age of 37, had a goal and an assist in the first game against Zambia and two goals and an assist in the second. Ahead of the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, which kicks off in July, Coach Bell nailed Park with the words, “I’m taking you to the World Cup.
“When I was first selected for the national team, the coach said that in the team meeting, and he said it after the game against Zambia, too. He was worried about me getting injured because of the tight domestic league schedule because of the World Cup, so it was funny and amusing to hear that.”
Park Eun-sun, who we met on the 18th of this month at the Seoul World Cup Stadium, laughed awkwardly at the phrase ‘plants in a greenhouse’. This is Park Eun-sun, who has lived in the valley of storms, not a greenhouse, and as a persistent weed, not a flower.
“There’s a monster, and it’s going to overtake Mia Hamm.”
Lee Yi-soo, then president of the Korea Women’s Football Association, told me excitedly in the summer of 2003. Park Eun-sun, a sophomore at Wirye Sang High School (now Seoul Dongang High School), was said to be a goalie with the speed and power of a man at 1.80 meters, making even unemployed seniors cringe.
Park played in the 2003 Women’s World Cup in the United States. It was the first World Cup for Korean women’s soccer, along with her older sisters. Despite losing to the strongest teams of the time, including Brazil and Norway, she returned with great experience and confidence.
At the end of 2004, the first Park Eun-sun wave occurred. Park Eun-sun, who was about to graduate from high school, decided to join the Seoul Metropolitan Government, where head coach Seo Jung-ho discovered and nurtured her. At the time, the Korean Women’s Football Association had a rule that said, “High school players must play for a college team for at least two years before they can play for an unemployed team. With only two unemployment teams, it was a way to save the universities, the pillars of adult soccer, and give many players a chance to play. But Park Eun-sun, who was poor enough to live in a converted shipping container, had to go to a team that paid her a salary to support her family. For following her heart, Park was banned for three tournaments, and her coach, Seo Jung-ho, was suspended for two years.
Poor conditions in women’s soccer, greed of adults surrounding immensely talented players…. Faced with a wall of contradictions, Park despaired. There were many times when she packed her bags to beat the soccer ball.
“I had to take responsibility because it was the path I chose. I was young and didn’t know much at the time, but there were so many people who tried to help me, so I got less discipline, which I’m grateful for now.”
In November 2013, the managers of the six women’s soccer WK League teams, excluding Seoul Metropolitan Government, made a resolution. It was the second Park Eun-sun wave. Park led the league in scoring with 19 goals in 2013, and the underdog Seoul City Hall finished second. Other team managers felt threatened by Park’s resurgence.
Despite this, Park Eun-sun has been criticized for being a “man,” and China and Japan have demanded gender tests at international tournaments, rubbing salt in the wound. Park shared her anger and devastation on Facebook, saying, “I was tested several times when I went to international competitions such as the 2003 World Cup and 2004 Olympic qualifiers, and I felt humiliated at the time, but have you ever thought about how my heavenly father and my family feel?
The matter was taken up with the National Human Rights Commission, which ordered that the officials be disciplined because it was clear sexual harassment. Two of the coaches resigned, but Park was not satisfied. In 2015, she voluntarily left for the Russian team Rosyanka. When he returned to Korea two years later, some of the managers were still on the bench, and even the team he moved to had an “official” at the helm.
When asked about her feelings at the time, she had a short answer. “It’s in the past, and I’ve gotten over it, so I don’t want to bring it up again.”
The Seoul Metropolitan Government team is coached by Yoo Young-sil, the former captain of the 2003 U.S. Women’s World Cup team. “Eun-sun was at her peak in 2013 because she had the power and experience, but what happened at the time really took the wind out of her sails, and Korean women’s soccer threw cold water on the momentum,” laments Yoo, who considers Park her sister.
“My soccer life is now the first 10 minutes of overtime”
When I asked her to compare her current state to a soccer game, this is what she said. “At the age of 37, I have a chance to play in the World Cup with my tricolor back on. If she were to play in her third World Cup, she said she would do her best even if she only played for one minute, and if she couldn’t play, she wanted to be the big sister who could cheer her on from the sidelines.
Park lives with her juniors in an apartment in Eunpyeong-gu, Seoul. The room is small, but not uncomfortable. On her days off, she rides her bike with her juniors and goes to the Han River.
Watching Park Eun-sun, I couldn’t help but think of volleyball “world star” Kim Yeon-kyung. They have a similar “girl crush” vibe and are both globally recognized in their sport. While Kim has played on world-class teams, earned a high salary, and is at the top of her game, Park is still struggling to make ends meet. “Kim Yeon-kyung is so famous and amazing, so this is my blessing and luck. I don’t have to feel sorry for her, I just have to work harder here.”안전놀이터
Park has a tiger tattoo on her left arm. He says the animal of his zodiac sign (Beom, born in 1986) is like a guardian spirit that protects him. On his right arm, he has a cross with the date “Dec. 5, 2013” and the words “Beginning of New Day” inked on it. When I asked him what that day was about, he said, “I was just trying to get my mind right at this time.” It was probably the saddest and darkest day of his life.
After the interview, I took a picture with the Seoul Metropolitan Government team on the sports field. I felt someone approach me and put his left arm around my shoulder, and I turned around to see Park Eun-sun. Immediately, a hot feeling rose in my stomach. He was smiling brightly.