Southeast Asia Vietnam

Vietnam coach Park Hang-seo looks back on the past: his eventful career, panic disorder, and career in Vietnam

Hyoin Kim

Football Tribe Korea


Park Hang-seo’s football career has been dramatic. As an assistant manager of the well-known Guus Hiddink, Park hrought harmony to the team. Korea Republic reached the semi-final of the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

When Hiddink left Korea, Park was appointed as the new head coach of the country’s Under-23 team. However, he soon butted heads with the Korean Football Association.

While the FA initially announced that Park would lead the team from the 2002 Busan Asian Games until the 2004 Asian Athens Olympics, KFA General Secretary Nam Kwang-u said that his term would be only through 2002, sparking the new head coach’s ire.

The KFA fell under further criticism after news emerged that Park would not be paid until the Asian Games. In response, KFA technical chief Kim Jin-guk accused Park of damaging the program’s reputation.

While Park remained in charge of the side despite these conflicts, he was eventually sacked after Korea only managed to win a bronze medal in Busan, within the three months of the appointment.

Park returned to the K-League as a manager at Jeonnam Dragons, but resigned in 2010 following disappointing results. Not long after, the K-League match-fixing case came to surface, which shocked him a lot, according to his interview in the Korean TV show “Conversation with Hee-Yeol.”

While he even suffered from the panic attack after finding out the players he trusted were involved in the scandal, he did not give up on football.

“There is a moment when things ‘stop’ – that moment is crucial,” said Park, and Vietnam Football Federation’s offer reached Park when he “stopped.”

“I had no choice. I was determined to last for at least a year. Due to the language barrier, I approached to players and tried to communicate from heart to heart.”

Park’s so-called ‘papa leadership’ style, named after his caring and encouragement which resembles that of fathers, helped the team rise to prominence.

The 61-year-old Park compared life to a football match. “Let’s say I have 10 minutes left. You don’t know whether you are going to concede a goal and allow a come-from-behind victory. I will continue to run until the end.”