Ji-Sung Park..A Profile
Ji-Sung has joined Manchester United in a $7.4 million deal; one that thrusts the shy Suwon native stumbling onto one of the brightest stages on the planet.
Manchester United is the biggest and richest sports franchise in the world, have fans from Auckland to Argentina, have lifted the English title eight times in the past thirteen years and have young players like Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo and will be challenging for titles at home and abroad for years to come.
The 24-year-old will need to use all of his, not inconsiderable, experience in England. He took the unusual route of moving to Japan without ever appearing in the Korean league. His two years at Kyoto Purple Sanga were successful ones but they weren't the reason why the midfielder earned a move to Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven.
Ji-sung's exploits in South Korea's run to the semi-finals in the 2002 World Cup were the clincher to his European move as was his relationship with then Korean boss Guus Hiddink. When Park scored an exquisite goal against Portugal in Incheon, he ran straight to the Dutchman and jumped into his arms.
Hiddink has since been reluctant to let go and when he took over the reins at Eindhoven he wasted no time in persuading Park to join him and despite some initial settling-in problems, the Korean established himself as an integral part of the midfield in southern Holland, leading the team to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League.
Such performances inevitably attracted the attention of bigger fish and they don't come any bigger than Manchester United. It's difficult for any player to turn down the "Red Devils" and Park will soon become the first South Korean to play in the Premier League.
Equally inevitable were suggestions in the English and European media that United bought Park to 'crack' the Asian market - to help boost the focus of the club's smooth merchandising machine in the east.
The biggest service the star, for a star he now is, can provide to Asian soccer during his time at United is to prove that European clubs can actually sign Far Eastern players for their talent and skill and not for the dubious perceived benefits of selling shirts in the Orient.
It won't be easy, as he has to break into the first eleven in England and stay there but playing with stars like Rooney and Ronaldo can only help the Asian develop.
"What is important for me is whether I can play in games or not,'' Park, who is planning to study English, said in a press conference. "I don't think I will become a big star like David Beckham right now," joked the Korean about the former Manchester player. "Maybe I can if I was that handsome, but I am always trying to be a better player, so I don't think it is impossible to become a player like Beckham.''
Such humor will serve him well as will his typical Korean determination to succeed. English fans prize effort, heart and willingness to give everything for the team above everything, qualities that Park has in abundance as well as no little skill.