Hong Yong-Jo is Korea DPR’s golden boy. One of the finest players the East Asian nation have produced over recent times, Hong has established himself as Korea DPR’s talisman after captaining the side through a memorable qualifying campaign.
With Japan-based Jong Tae-Se invariably the focal point of Korea DPR’s attack during qualifying, Hong was deployed in the second striker role in Kim Jong-Hun’s favoured strategy. However, operating in a more withdrawn role did not prevent Hong, who is renowned for his lightening pace and thunderous shots, striking four times in as many matches to become the team’s joint-top scorer alongside Jong Chol-Min.
Unlike Jong Tae-Se, who was born in Japan, Hong is one of the Chollima’s homegrown stars. He joined the April 25 Sports Group in 2004 and scored 41 goals in three seasons. In 2007, he earned an overseas move to Serbian side FK Bezanija before going on to sign for Russia’s FC Rostov a year later.
Moving abroad is a rare honour for North Korean players, but Hong’s foreign adventures reflects the esteem in which his predatory talents are held. It was in 2004 that he first broke into Korea DPR’s senior side and it didn’t take him too long to break his international duck, opening his account against Yemen during qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
After featuring in a goalless draw against the United Arab Emirates, Hong returned to goalscoring ways, averaging a goal in each of the following three games to help seal Korea DPR’s progression to the final qualifying round.
Boosted by those experiences of the Germany 2006 qualifiers and having honed his skills in European leagues, Hong became the team’s natural leader as Korea DPR embarked on their qualifying campaign for South Africa 2010. He reaffirmed his credentials as early as the opening game against Jordan in the third qualifying round, netting just 60 seconds from half-time as Korea DPR got off to a perfect start.
He was twice on target against the same opponents in the return game, scoring in each half to give his side a 2-0 home win. And it was his second goal that best illustrated his skills, with Hong beating three defenders and cutting into the area before firing a low shot into the back of net.
His fourth goal came in the 1-1 draw against Korea Republic, when he deftly converted a penalty to put Korea DPR ahead after 64 minutes only for Ki Seung-Yueng to equalise five minutes from time.
As everyone knows, the North Koreans made history 44 years ago by reaching the last eight in their FIFA World Cup debut at England 1966, with Pak Doo-Ik scoring the goal that sent Italy packing. With the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ just around the corner, Hong is expected to take on the mantle of the legendary Pak as the Chollima set their sights on replicating those glorious achievements.