Park Chu young: South Korea’s golden boy that ended as one of the worst Arsenal players!

Park Chu-young

Park Chu-young was South Korea’s golden boy that ended as one of the worst Arsenal players, despite looking like a classic Wenger signing.

Park Chu-young was seen as classic Wenger signing in 2011. Relatively unknown, showing some impressive performances for Monaco, and being quite “cheap”.

It was a time when Arsenal really need a striker, as there was only RVP, while Gervinho and Chamakh just weren’t performing.

No one expected it to end so badly, but it just wasn’t meant to be for the South Korean.

With dark hair, strong build, above average height, very high IQ (rumored to be 150), and a natural strikers ability. Chu-young became famous very early in his career. More precisely, he became famous in the 2004 AFC Youth Championship.

Park Chu-young becoming quickly famous and signing for Seoul FC!

South Korea’s youth team won it’s record 11th title, with Chu-young getting the golden ball and being voted as the most valuable player of the tournament.

Obviously, this made Chu-young incredibly famous in his own country, but he was still unknown to the rest of the world.

That’s why Seoul FC signed him up in 2005, instead of some club in Europe.

Like with his international (youth) career, Chu-young made a great start to his career with Seoul FC. In his first season, he scored 12 league goals and 18 goals overall, to win rookie of the year award in K-league.

Things were going great for Chu-young, who became his country’s biggest hope, in space of just two years.

Well, it didn’t last, at least not with Seoul FC. His next season was visibly worse in terms of goals and performances, but his international career was going very well. He became his nations key striker and was scoring goals left and right.

His third season at Seoul FC was marred by injuries, while the 4th season got him a much anticipated transfer to Europe.

Signing for AS Monaco!

AS Monaco decided to sign the striker for just €2 million in 2008 which was very cheap given his national reputation

Move to Monaco suited Chu-young more than just in a professional sense. He is rumored to be quite reserved and shy, which made Monaco’s anonymity a lot more pleasing than superstardom in South Korea.

It was a great deal for Monaco, as Park Chu-young got a MOTM award in his first match for the club.

Park adopted to Ligue 1 and became an important part of Monaco’s team. He didn’t score that many goals, at least not in his first two seasons, but his third season signaled that Chu-young is ready for more.

Park Chu-young was showing great performances for Monaco, while his international career blossomed. He was on course to becoming one of his country’s greatest goalscorers, as he already scored 21 goals by the time he was 26 years old.

Cha Bum-Kun is South Korea’s greatest goalscorer with 55 goals, so you could say that Chu-young had a chance of topping that (in time).

Despite Chu-young scoring 12 goals in his last season for Monaco, the club got relegated to Ligue 2. It was a very sad period for the club, but it was probably the peak of Chu-young’s football career.

Obviously, Park didn’t want to play in Ligue 2 and started looking for a new club. It seemed that the new club would be Lille, who were French champions at the time.

A phone call leading to Arsenal!

The deal to become a new Lille player was basically agreed, and Chu-young only had a medical to complete.

He was in his hotel, waiting for the medical,when the phone rang. That phone call was probably the key moment in Chu-young’s career. He was probably shocked to hear a cracking French voice on the other side, offering him a chance of a lifetime.

Instead of completing his medical, Park went AWOL. No one knew where he was, but the mystery of his disappearance was soon uncovered.

Instead for Lille, Chu-young signed for Arsenal in €6,5 million deal.

This left people at Lille very upset, but it didn’t bother Chu-young at all, as he got to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world.

Like with Monaco, it was a difficult time for Arsenal. They lost Fabregas and Nasri to Barcelona and Manchester City, while they also got “spanked” by Manchester United.

No Arsenal fan knew much about Park Chu-young, as he was signed only 2 days after that horror 8-2 defeat to Man United.

Some predicted that he was signed primarily for marketing reasons, but fans were still optimistic, as he was given a number 9 and everything pointed to a classic Wenger signing (as mentioned at the beginning of the article).

Chu-young was signed along with Mikael Arteta, Per Mertesacker, and Andre Santos, as they (probably) represented a reaction to that horrible defeat to United.

Of these 4 players, Arteta and Mertesacker became key players for Arsenal, while Santos left the club after one (and a half) mixed season.

Flopping at Arsenal and problems with military service!

To put it bluntly, Park Chu-young ended as the worst of these players. Well, worst than most of the players that ever played for Arsenal.

You could say that Chu-young’s time at Arsenal was marred by his strange situation with South Korea’s military service.

As you probably know (or not), there is a required military service for every South Korean. It has to be “accomplished” by the time they are 35 (or 28) years old and it lasts for 2 years. This can be postponed in certain situations, or even canceled.

The military service is canceled, if a player makes something “heroic” for his country, like winning a medal with South Korea’s national team.

That happened with Tottenham’s Son Heung-min, who won golden medal with South Korea in Asian games, but this didn’t happen to Chu-young.

Because of Monaco’s residence, Chu-young postponed the whole thing for 10 years. Strangely, but on his official presentation with Arsenal, he was talking completely different when asked about his military service.

As reported in Arseblog, he had this to say about the situation, despite knowing that he has postponed the whole thing.

“Yes it is true [on returning to South Korea in 2013]. I don’t feel rushed [to make a mark at Arsenal]. I just feel really proud to have two and a half years at Arsenal. They are the last team I will be with before I go back to Korea from Europe. I am really happy about that. I will do my best to show what I can do in the next two and half years.”

It was bizarre situation, which didn’t help his Arsenal career at all.

Losing respect of his country and going on loans!

When information about his “postponement” got out, Chu-young lost his status of a “golden boy” in his country. Avoiding military service is seen as very “unpatriotic” in South Korea and Park was seen as “cheat”, who used his status to escape military service.

Park did try to fix the situation!

As reported in Goal, Park made this statement about his military postponement.

“I understand there was a massive controversy since I have postponed my military service. I first want to apologize to all the people who have felt left down by me. When I played for AS Monaco I was able to learn a lot of new things about football. That’s why I wanted to stay in Europe further to learn more so I decided to postpone my service.”

“To repeat, I have no intention to leave Korea nor evade the military service. I have already written a pledge that I will fulfill my duties with the Military Manpower Administration. I want to apologize to all the army-men who are serving the nation at this moment.”

Despite addressing the whole situation correctly, it didn’t help. He was basically banned from the national team (He made one appearance after 2011), as Park Chu-young went from hero to zero. This likely effected shy and reserved Chu-young and his performances on the pitch.

Park Chu-young was banned from the national team, because of controversy with military service.

Park got to play only 7 minutes in the Premier League, and that was as good as it got for him at Arsenal.

He did play in some League Cup matches and even scored a goal. Still, Chu-young couldn’t get into Arsenal’s first eleven.

As you can expect, fans were bewildered by Chu-young’s lack of involvement. Yet, they completely forgot about him thanks to Van Persie’s high number of goals.

After that first season at Arsenal, South Korean decided to swap clubs and went to Celta on loan.

He did play for Celta a lot more than Arsenal, but he wasn’t good enough to secure a permanent move. He returned to Arsenal after scoring 4 goals for Celta.

This time around, Chu-young’s was considered more as a joke than anything else, while his status was even more peripheral than before. He made only one appearance in League Cup for Arsenal, before going on loan to Watford.

Similar to his time at Arsenal, Chu-young didn’t feature much for Watford. He got only 2 appearances, which was another big disappointment for Chu-young, who lost his way.

To Saudi Arabia and back to South Korea!

He left Arsenal and the Premier League, after ending his loan with Watford, to sign for Saudi Arabia’s Al-Shabab in 2014.

It’s hard to say what went inside Chu-young’s mind when he made this move, as it simply didn’t make sense, at least not in a professional sense.

Obviously, this was another miss-kick in Chu-young’s career, as he barely featured for Al-Shabab as well.

There was only one road left for Chu-young, after another disappointing season, and that road lead back to South Korea.

Chu-young signed for Seoul FC, a club where he “made his name”.

He has srolled back the years at Seoul, as he has become an important player for his “first” club. Park hasn’t been as good as he was in his first stint, but he did put his career back on track.

It could have been a lot different for Park Chu-young!

Looking back at his career, you can’t help to wonder what would happen, if he would chose Lille instead of Arsenal.

His career would have turned in completely different direction. Instead of getting “lost” in his prime years, he might be known as one of the best South Korean players.

It’s true that dodging military service had a big effect, but choosing Arsenal instead of Lille, was even bigger mistake.

He would probably end up as the best Lille signing, but instead become one of the worst Wenger signings at Arsenal.


Editors’ picks:


Despite flopping at Arsenal, Chu-young actually had a positive effect on the club. According to article in Daily Cannon, Cho-young indirectly helped in persuading Wenger to buy StatDNA.

StatDNA is a stats-based company, which the main purpose was to help Arsenal in avoiding signing players similar to Cho-young.

You could say that Arsenal learned a thing or two from signing Cho-young, although at the expense of Park’s career.

Chu-young made just a couple of wrong turns. Yet, those turns had a big effect on his footballing career. He has managed to salvage his career in South Korea, but it could have been a lot more.

Štefan Japelj

About Štefan Japelj

Experienced content writer and marketing specialist. Football (soccer) expert that likes to watch Premier League (especially Arsenal). Knows a lot about other football leagues, too!