The inclusion of Kim Bo-Kyung in his country’s final 23-man squad for South Africa 2010 raised a few eyebrows in the Korea Republic for the fact the 21-year-old had featured predominantly as a substitute when given a chance to impress in the run-up to this month’s showpiece.
But when you look at his excellent track record in the South Korean junior ranks, it hardly seems a surprise that Kim is already regarded as a potential candidate to succeed the likes of Park Ji-Sung and Yeom Ki-Hun on the Taeguk Warriors’ left flank.
It is only two years ago that Kim got his first opportunity to shine in an international tournament at the AFC U-19 Championship in Saudi Arabia. After an appearance as a second-half substitute in a 2-1 defeat by the United Arab Emirates, Kim opened the scoring with his clinical left foot in a 2-0 win over Iraq. He went on to cement his place by helping the South Koreans to a 3-0 victory against arch-rivals Japan in the quarter-finals, though he could not prevent the ensuing semi-final loss to Uzbekistan.
At last year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup, Kim’s star continued its ascent. As coach Hong Myung-Bo’s first-choice left winger in Egypt, he rose to the occasion brilliantly when the young Taeguk Warriors were threatened by early elimination in the group stage. Needing three points against the United States to reach the second round, Kim netted the Koreans’ second goal in a 3-0 success with a sublime volley. He then broke the deadlock against Round of 16 opponents Paraguay as the South Koreans claimed another 3-0 victory to reach the quarter-finals.
Although suspended for the ensuing 3-2 defeat by eventual winners Ghana, Kim had already left a lasting impression, and not just for his contribution with the ball. His goal celebration – playing a mock violin surrounded by his team-mates – stood out and earned him the nickname ‘the left-footed maestro’.
“I have confidence in my left foot but I still need to improve on the other side. I’m trying to use both feet,” said Kim, who subsequently signed his first professional contract with Cerezo Osaka in the J.League before being loaned out to Oita Trinita in the Japanese second division.
Kim’s marauding down the left side and precise through-balls from midfield caught the eye of national coach Huh Jung-Moo, who called him into the national squad for the January training camp in South Africa. After winning his first cap against Zambia in Johannesburg, Kim went on to make a telling contribution in the EAFF Championship as he helped the Taeguk Warriors claim a famous 3-1 win against hosts Japan.
He may not yet be sure of his best position – and, moreover, may find his chances limited in South Africa – but Kim is ready to benefit from the learning experience regardless. “I’m focusing on learning from my older team-mates rather than competing with them,” Kim said.