Kim Hyeung-Bum is what is known as a 'second-hand rookie.' After a disappointing spell at Ulsan Horang-i, the 22-year-old midfielder has made a huge impact in his first season at Jeonbuk Motors both in the K-League and the AFC Champions League, with five goals in each competition so far this season.
Kim's scoring run began in March. In the first group game against Gamba Osaka of Japan, he found the net twice to help his side to a 3-2 victory. After scoring again in the third match against Da Nang of Vietnam, Kim snatched two goals against the Chinese side Dalian Shide in the final group game.
With his side hoping to win the the Asian crown and a berth in the FIFA Club World Cup later this year, Kim is looking forward to the kick-off. Ahead of the first leg of the final against Al Karama, Kim spoke exclusively to FIFA.com about his life in the fast lane of Korean football.
FIFA.com: You started your career at Ulsan in 2004 following two years at college, but your chances were limited.
Kim Hyeung-Bum: I had a couple of offers from professional clubs after I graduated from high school but I thought I wasn't good enough to be there. In the end, I dropped out of college after two years because I wanted to learn more at a higher level. However, there were so many good players at Ulsan and I was just an inexperienced newcomer. Although I had not been given many chances to play, I managed to score some goals and was nominated for their Young Player of the Year Award. Not bad for the first season, but I think my true qualities were overshadowed by the star players at Ulsan.
What do you think your main qualities are?
Penetrating into the opponent's defence, shooting, free kicks and crossing the ball, but I think these qualities only came to light when I moved to Jeonbuk. The coach, Choi Kang-Hee, encouraged me to express myself freely when I am on the pitch - and his confidence in my ability has made me a better player.
Which position suits your style?
I play in a forward position, in the left or right channel. During the match I switch positions with Yeom Ki-Hun - and I think this causes a lot of problems for our opponents.
You are a good friend of Yeom Ki-Hun and you were both involved in a car accident in July.
We communicate well on and off the pitch. Together we lead Jeonbuk's attack - and we lead the joking around in the dressing room. He's like a brother to me. The car accident was a turning point for us, as many good things happened after that: Ki-Hun was called up to the national team; I'm playing well in the Champions League.
You scored all of your five goals here in Jeonju in the group stage of the AFC Champions League. Do you think you are stronger at home than on the road?
Yes, when you're playing at home you can't afford to lose. The fans are watching you, cheering for you and expecting you to win, so we don't want to let them down. That makes me concentrate on the game and helps us achieve good results.
And you were sent off in the first leg of the quarter-final against Shanghai Shenhua.
The atmosphere in Shanghai was very hostile from the outset and I was very nervous. That was the first time I was given a red card since I started playing football in school. I couldn't even sleep for two days with the colour red haunting my every move. I felt extremely sorry because I disappointed so many people around me. It is a moment I really want to forget.
Ulsan had been your home for two years. Was the semi-final second leg at Ulsan difficult for you?
Well, Ulsan's Munsu Stadium was like home to me. Fans and players there were very friendly and I had a close relationship with the fans. I felt sorry for them when I visited there but the match itself was a thriller and I think it was a good spectacle for the fans even if the home team lost.
Is there any reason behind Jeonbuk's recent run of success?
We play good football. Even without star players, we play attractive stuff in order to entertain and please our fans. Plus, we have been focusing on the Champions League this season - the single minded approach is really paying off.
And you are already called 'the Champions League man.'
I don't deserve to be called that. I'm just happy to know that the fans like me, they like what I do on the pitch and I really appreciate that.
How are Jeonbuk preparing for the match against Al Karama?
We've almost given up the domestic league at the moment and the regulars are resting for the final. Although we don't have a lot of information, the coaching staff is analysing the opponent's strengths and weakenesses and the players are in confident mood.
You haven't represented Korea Republic at senior level, but should Jeonbuk win the AFC Champions League, you could play at the FIFA Club World Cup. Does that excite you?
If we made it through it would be the first time that a Korean club competed with the other continental champions and I'm thrilled to think that I could be part of it. We have come a long way so far - like the national team did during the 2002 World Cup.