Malaysia is turning to South Korea once again in a bid to survive and prosper in the English Premier League, the most popular football league in the world.
Queens Park Rangers (QPR) are Malaysian-owned and now have two South Korean stars in their lineup since signing defender Yun Suk-Young, the 11th from the country to play in England’s top tier.
As QPR chairman Tony Fernandes is also owner of AirAsia, there is a certain synergy involved. South Korean Park Ji-sung, widely considered the most famous Asian player of the 21st century, joined the London club in the summer of 2012 after seven very successful years with Manchester United.
While Park is still capable of playing at the highest level, his iconic status in the East has been heavily exploited in certain markets – not least to push the relatively recent opening of a direct AirAsia route from Kuala Lumpur to Seoul. On a recent drive around Kuala Lumpur, Park’s face was not difficult to spot.
But there are more pressing issues for QPR to deal with, such as maintaining its Premier League status. With many Asian fans following the league closely, for commercial reasons as well as football ones, it would be disastrous if the team dropped into the Football League Championship, England’s second tier.
With 23 of the 38 games in the season already played, QPR is bottom and five points from safety, and faces Manchester United next. The January transfer window is the last chance for new coach Harry Redknapp to bring in new players before the season ends. Yun is part of the last throw of the dice from the experienced coach.
With a new television deal in place from next season, membership of the Premier League is going to be more lucrative than ever before–and it has always been lucrative.
Yun made his mark at the 2012 Olympics when South Korea collected a bronze medal. Since then, he has been linked with a number of prestigious European clubs, including English champion Manchester City, the Tottenham Spurs, Everton and Italian juggernaut AC Milan.
In the end, he will wear the blue and white hoops of the QPR jersey. He has left the Chunnam Dragons pre-season training camp in Bangkok to head to London where he will undergo a medical test.
"He is expected to sign a contract with the QPR if he passes the test," Chunnam said in a statement.
According to Korean media, Chunnam refused to send the player to another London club, Fulham for a trial. A spokesman for the club said that since he had played in the Olympics and senior national team, there was no need for Yun to prove himself.
It was a welcome moment of assertiveness. In the past, Asian clubs have often been far too accommodating to European suitors. Now Yoon has the chance to showcase his skills at the highest level.