What does the World Cup mean to you? Playing in the World Cup is like a dream come true. It’s every top player’s ambition to play at the finals.
What are your first memories of the World Cup? The first tournament I remember was 1994 in the United States. I was eight or nine years old at the time. They are fantastic memories for me. I particularly remember the game between Germany and South Korea in the group stages. Germany went 3-0 up in the first half but South Korea pulled it back to 3-2 after half-time and nearly equalised towards the end. From that side, Seon-Hong Hwang, Myung-Bo Hong and Jung-Won Seo were like heroes for me.
What do you think of South Korea’s chances at the World Cup? I think we’ve got a pretty decent chance of getting through to the next round. Argentina are the best side in our group, but it’s really even between ourselves, Nigeria and Greece for the second spot. I don’t see any difference in quality between the sides.
What do you think of England’s chances? They’re one of the world’s real footballing powers at the moment. They showed in the qualifiers last year just what a good team they are. I expect them to do really well. They are one of the sides that can win it.
Who would you say are the most dangerous players in the England side? Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard. John Terry is a good player, but for me Rooney and Gerrard are the best. I think England will miss David Beckham. He’s a top player with so much experience, especially at the World Cup. He’ll be hard to replace, but I’m sure the coach has plans to cover his absence. England have a lot of other good players. Personally I’m sorry Beckham will be missing the World Cup and hope he comes back from his injury.
As a teenager, you spent a year at a coaching centre in Brazil. Why was that? It was an opportunity that came up for me and I took it. It was a fantastic experience. Over there, you were able to take a really experimental approach to football. We had complete freedom to try things, learn about the game and discuss every aspect of football with some outstanding coaches. It really helped me to develop my skills and become a better footballer. After that I returned to South Korea and continued my youth development before starting my professional career at FC Seoul.
Have you been to South Africa before? No, it’ll be my first trip over there. I think we’ll cope fine with the conditions, because our training camp means we’ll be used to the weather and pitches.
Apart from yourself, who are the best players in the South Korea side? Chung-Yong Lee (Bolton), Sung-Yong Ki (Celtic), Keun-Ho Lee (Jubilo Iwata) and Ji-Sung Park (Manchester United). They’re all excellent players. We’ve got a great team spirit, too. The players all get along very well.
What will be the first thing you do if you win the World Cup? I’ll go back to my homeland with my team-mates and celebrate, of course!
Is it true you have an IQ of 150? Yes, it is, although the test was a long time ago! I did it when I was around 16 or 17, in junior high school.
You play for Monaco in the French League at the moment. Have you had any offers from the Premier League? Not yet, but I’d love to play there. It’s a dream of mine to play in the Premier League one day.
Interview: June 2010.