She sees Kim Yeon-kyung…”Is it a man?” The women’s football monster who was beaten up revives
Colin Bell (England) is the first foreign manager of the South Korean women’s national football team. Here’s what he had to say about Park Eun-sun after a trial match against Zambia in April. Park Eun-sun (Seoul Metropolitan Government), who was recalled to the squad at the tender 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, Bell nailed Park with the words “take me to the World Cup”.안전놀이터
“When I was first selected for the national team, he said that in the team meeting, and he said it after the game against Zambia, too. He was worried about me getting injured because the domestic league schedule is tight 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, then a sophomore at Wirye Sang High School (now Seoul Dongang High School), was said to have the speed and power of a man at 1.80 metres, 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 football, along with her older sisters. Despite losing to some of the strongest teams of the time, including Brazil and Norway, she came back with great experience and confidence.
At the end of 2004, the first Park Eun-sun wave hit. 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 graduates must play for a university team for at least two years before they can play for an unemployment team. With only two unemployment teams, it was a way to save the universities, the pillars of adult football, 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 Eun-sun was banned for three tournaments and Seo Jung-ho was suspended for two years.
Poor women’s soccer conditions, adult greed surrounding immensely talented players…. Faced with a wall of contradictions, Park despaired. There were many times when she packed her bags to beat the football.
“I had to take responsibility for my family because it was the path I chose. I was young and didn’t know any better, but there were so many people who tried to help me, so I was disciplined less, which I’m grateful for now.”
Park Eun-sun “I’ll boycott the competition if they don’t do a gender test”
In November 2013, the managers of the six women’s football WK League teams, excluding Seoul Metropolitan Government, made a resolution. It was the “second Park Eun-sun wave. Park finished as the league’s top scorer with 19 goals in 2013, and the underdogs finished second. Other team managers felt threatened by Park’s resurgence.
Despite this, Park Eun-sun has been called a “man’s man” and has rubbed salt in the wounds by demanding gender tests at international tournaments in China and Japan. 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 “this is clear sexual harassment and that those involved should be disciplined. Two of the coaches resigned, but Park was not satisfied. In 2015, she voluntarily left to play for 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 moved on, 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 USA World Cup team. “Eun-sun was at her peak in 2013 because she had the power and experience, but what happened to her really took the wind out of her sails and threw cold water on the momentum of Korean women’s football,” laments Yoo, who considers Park a younger sister.
“My football life is now the first 10 minutes of overtime”
When I asked her to compare her current situation to a football match, this is what she said. “At the age of 37, I have a chance to play in a World Cup with the tricolour again. If she were to play in her third World Cup, she would do her best even if she only played for one minute, and if she couldn’t play, she would be the big sister who would 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 recognised in their sport. While Kim has played for 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.”
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 ’12. 5. 2013′ and the words ‘Beginning of New Day’. When I asked him what that day was about, he said, “I was just trying to get my mind right at this time.” It must have been the saddest, darkest day of his life.
After the interview, we took a photo with the Seoul Metropolitan Government athletes on the sports field.