[Theme of December '2021 ICON'] Leadership of Volleyball Star Yeon Koung Kim, Wild One in the National Team
[Theme of December '2021 ICON'] Leadership of Volleyball Star Yeon Koung Kim, Wild One in the National Team
  • Lee Hyun-yong (Culture and sports reporter)
  • 승인 2021.12.01 00:55
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ⓒSPORT korea
ⓒSPORT korea

  Weight of a Volleyball

  A volleyball should weigh 260-280 grams according to the regulations of the International Federation of Volleyball. Korea’s women’s volleyball stars Yeon Koung Kim and Su-ji Kim are friends; they were born in 1988 and 1987 respectively, the eldest players in Korea’s women’s volleyball team for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. The ball physically weighs the same for the 12 players of a team, but Yeon Koung must have felt it 12 times heavier in her hand due to her role as the leader of the team. She was expected to go beyond playing well in her position. Highly praised as “a one-in-a-billion player” by the International Federation of Volleyball, Yeon Koung is one of Korea’s most remarkable sport players this year with the world-class abilities, sportsmanship and leadership. She is the legend player in Korea’s women’s volleyball, who has led the national team to the semifinal of the Olympics two times in a row.

  Return of the typhoon-scale empress

  When it was reported in June 2020 that Yeon Koung Kim was about to return to Korea’s volleyball league, she was compared to a super typhoon. The field was stirred by the news that Kim as a free agent was sounding out opinions on returning to her original team Heungkuk Life in 11 years. Along with the news on her possible return, hidden stories on salary negotiation have also been revealed; a team was only allowed to pay a total of 23 billion won for salaries and no more than 7 million won for one player due the salary cap. Both the team and Kim were known to be cautious of calling the salary since it could affect salary negotiation of other players.

  On June 10 2020, Kim announced of her return to the Korean league in a press conference. She said, “I put priority on the competition power of the team and decided to put the money issue behind. I didn’t want to have any negative effects on the younger players of the team and my parents supported my decision. It was not a difficult decision.” As a popular professional sports star, she must have calculated gain and loss that could come from commercials and broadcasting. Yet she was thoughtful and careful enough to consider her colleagues in the team. Amid the uncertainties in the sports field resulted from the Covid pandemic, her biggest goal was the Tokyo Olympics a year later. “I’ve been looking for the ways how I could prepare for the Tokyo Olympic Games in my best condition, and decided that returning to the Korean league would help to maintain my skills and abilities,” said Kim. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics was the third and last Summer Olympics for her, following the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Summer Games.

  Dance! Dance! Dance!

  The return of the empress is driving the popularity of women’s volleyball league in Korea, surpassing that of professional baseball as well as men’s volleyball league. According to Korea Volleyball Federation (KOVO), average audience rating of women’s volleyball games in Korea is rising from 1.05% in 2019-2020 season to 1.29% in 2020-2021 season. Comparing with 1% average rating of professional baseball games during the same period, women’s volleyball is said to have outperformed baseball league at least in popularity. It won’t be an exaggeration to attribute it to Kim Yeon Koung. Has Kim’s ‘dance’ been a kind of magic spell on the court? We are now witnessing the effects of her ‘dance’ on the Olympics court and the domestic league. Kim's last game at the Olympics has been compared to the last dance. It is from the documentary film ‘The Last Dance’ which is about Michael Jordan’s heyday that aired on Netflix. Kim Yeon Koung’s dance has not ended. She has contracted with China’s Shanghai Bright Ubest Women’s Volleyball Club and headed China in October. She said goodbye with a confident smile to her fans who were sending her off at the airport. Dance! Dance! Dance!

  Somewhere between Messi and Jordan

  Kim’s fans call her ‘God Yeon Koung,’ a nickname taken from ‘God of Football’ which refers to Lionel Messi. Kim, however, is said to have wanted ‘Ronald of Volleyball’ for her nickname because Ronald is more handsome and gorgeous. I think ‘future Jordan of Volleyball’ would fit better. She is active and skillful in both offense and defense like Michael Jordan, and is influential with the leadership of Jordan’s class. I would not be the only one who thinks that Kim is becoming like Michael Jordan, the best player in the history of basketball. Sometimes strict as an old veteran player, and sometimes wild as seen in entertainment shows on TV, and sometimes witty and humorous as in commercials, she comes to us showing various personalities. That is Kim’s leadership. Though retired from the national team now, she is still standing on the volleyball court. I am looking forward to seeing her new play on the court soon.



Lee Hyun-yong is a culture and sports reporter of Channel A. He has been writing and reporting news on TV since 2008, and he enjoys the joy of learning and meeting wise people.

Translated by Ok Eurom


* 《Cultura》 2021 December (Vol. 90) *

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