The History of K League's Traditional Season Curtain-Raiser
For the first time in three years, the traditional Korean football season curtain-raiser returns as on Saturday 25th February 2023, reigning K League 1 champions Ulsan Hyundai will host last year's FA Cup winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.
In the Premier League there's the Community Shield, in Italy there's the Supercoppa Italiana, Spain has the Supercopa de España, and even across the East Sea there's the Japanese Super Cup, but there's no Korean Super Cup - not anymore at least.
Until 2006, there used to be one. It ran from 1999 for eight years (excluding 2003) until it was decided that there wasn't enough interest and too expensive to host. As interest dwindled, it was difficult to find sponsorship and prize money.
Instead, the Super Cup is now, when possible, the first match of the new K League season. But, it wasn't possible to start the season in that format in 2022 as the FA Cup winners from the previous season were Jeonnam Dragons of K League 2. Nor was it possible the year before as Jeonbuk had won the double in 2020.
In fact, the last time the season began with this champions versus champions-type affair was in 2020 when Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors took on Suwon Samsung Bluewings. It was played behind closed doors but watched by millions around the world with K League one of the first professional leagues to get underway following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lee Dong-gook scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 Jeonbuk win.
History's on K League Champions' Side
In its current format, it is the K League champions that usually emerge as the winners. From the 13 previous 'champion versus champion' season openers, the K League title winners from the previous season have gone on to win seven times, and the FA Cup winners just twice with four draws.
Jeonbuk have won this fixture as the K League champions on six occasions but the 2023 season opener will be the first for Jeonbuk as the winners of the FA Cup. The Green Warriors have, however, played Ulsan in this fixture before - back in 2018 and emerged as 2-0 victors thanks to goals from Lee Dong-gook and Han Kyo-won.
The last time the FA Cup holders beat the previous season's league title winners on opening day was back in 2011 when Suwon Bluewings overcame Super Match rivals FC Seoul.
K League Season Opener History
2022 N/A - Jeonnam Dragons of K League 2 won the 2021 FA Cup
2021 N/A - Jeonbuk did the double in 2020
2020 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 1-0 Suwon Samsung Bluewings
2019 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 1-1 Daegu FC
2018 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-0 Ulsan Hyundai
2017 FC Seoul 1-1 Suwon Bluewings
2016 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 1-0 FC Seoul
2015 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-0 Seongnam FC
2014 N/A - Pohang Steelers won the double in 2013
2013 FC Seoul 2-2 Pohang Steelers
2012 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 3-2 Seongnam
2011 FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon Bluewings
2010 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 3-1 Suwon Bluewings
2009 Suwon Bluewings 2-3 Pohang Steelers
2008 Pohang Steelers 2-1 Jeonnam Dragons
2007 Seongnam Ilhwa Chuma 1-1 Jeonnam Dragons
Super Cup History
What about the Super Cup, then? Suwon Bluewings were the competition's most successful team, winning it three times (1999, 2000, 2005). Four other teams won the competition once - Seongnam in 2002, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in 2004, LG Anyang Cheetahs (FC Seoul) in 2001, and Ulsan Hyundai in 2006.
1999 Suwon Samsung Bluewings 5-1 LG Anyang Cheetahs (FC Seoul)
2000 Suwon Samsung Bluewings 0-0 (5-4 on pens) Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma
2001 LG Anyang Cheetahs (FC Seoul) 2-1 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
2002 Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma 1-0 Daejeon Citizen
2004 Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma 0-2 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
2005 Suwon Samsung Bluewings 1-0 Busan IPark
2006 Ulsan Hyundai Horangi 1-0 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors