Veteran striker Lee Dong-gook voted S. Korean pro football MVP

December 1, 2014
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors' forward Lee Dong-gook accepts his K League Classic MVP trophy on Dec. 1, 2014, in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors’ forward Lee Dong-gook accepts his K League Classic MVP trophy on Dec. 1, 2014, in Seoul. (Yonhap)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — Veteran striker Lee Dong-gook of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors was voted the MVP of South Korean professional football on Monday.

The 35-year-old garnered 101 out of 112 votes to claim the top individual award in the first-division K League Classic, easily beating out FC Seoul defensive back Cha Du-ri, with six votes, and Suwon Bluewings’ forward Santos, who had five. Lee finished second in the league to Santos with 13 goals and helped Jeonbuk win their third championship in six seasons.

Lee became the first player in the league’s 31-year history to win three MVPs. He’d earlier captured the MVP trophy in 2009 and 2011. Jeonbuk won championships in both of those seasons.

Lee’s head coach, Choi Kang-hee, was voted the Coach of the Year, as Jeonbuk cruised to the championship with 81 points on 24 wins, nine draws and five losses, 14 points ahead of the runner-up, Suwon. Choi is the third coach to win the award three times, having earlier captured the honors in 2009 and 2011.

Choi earned 99 votes, while Seo Jung-won of Suwon had 10 and Choi Yong-soo of FC Seoul had three.

Lee and Choi are the first player-coach tandem to win the MVP and the Coach of the Year honors in three different seasons.

Pohang’s second-year forward Kim Seung-dae was the Young Player of the Year with 78 out of 112 votes, getting past Jeonbuk’s rookie midfielder Lee Jae-sung, who had 28, and Chunnam’s first-year midfielder An Yong-woo, who earned six.

Kim Seung-dae scored 10 goals to lead all candidates. The Young Player award was presented for the second time, after replacing the more conventional Rookie of the Year last season. Candidates must be South Koreans 23 or younger and must have played in at least half of their team’s games this year. Candidates also must not have played more than three seasons in the K League Classic.

Kim is the second straight winner from Pohang, after the inaugural winner Ko Mu-yeol.

The league also announced the All-K League Classic squad of 11 players, made up of two forwards, four midfielders, four defenders and a goalkeeper.

Lee Dong-gook and Santos, two of the MVP candidates, were named the league’s best forwards. The midfielder corps featured two Jeonbuk players, Han Kyo-won and Lee Seung-gi, along with FC Seoul’s Koh Myong-jin and Busan IPark’s Lim Sang-hyub.

Leading the defense was the third MVP candidate, Cha Du-ri. His FC Seoul teammate, Kim Ju-young, was also named, joined by Suwon’s Hong Chul and Jeonbuk’s Alex Wilkinson.

Jeonbuk’s custodian Kwoun Sun-tae was named the top goalkeeper, having conceded just 19 goals in 34 matches.

Overall, Jeonbuk had five players on the list.