Born: May 22, 1982 in Pyongyang, North Korea
Clubs played for: The short, bulky striker began his career with North Korean squad April 25 then moved to Serbia and FK Bezanija in 2007. Several Russian sides became interested in the 28-year-old, since he possessed the rugged skill and strength loved in the Russian Premier League, and FC Rostov won his services in 2008.
International career: Hong Yong-Jo made his first appearance for North Korea in 2005 and has become a intergral part of a side that has been steadily working towards World Cup qualification since 2006. During World Cup qualifiying, the Rostov striker and Jong Chol-Min each scored four goals as the Chollima (a mythical horse) qualified for its second World Cup, first since 1966.
Why is he so special? Like many Korea players, from either the North or the South, Hong Yong-Jo uses his small stature to his advantage – a low centre of gravity makes him a pesky dribbler who’s hard to dispossess. And like many players who come from countries where style and finesse are considered irrelevant compared to pure, blunt force, Hong Yong-Jo opts to threaten opponent’s with his hammer blow strikes rather than nifty tricks.
His most famous moment: Hong Yong-Jo’s first-half penalty put North Korea 1-0 up against their rivals from the South and reaffirmed their intent to qualify for South Africa. The match would finish 1-1.
He said it: “Football is the number one sport in North Korea. The General Kim Jong Il personally monitors its development. That way many North Korean players can compete abroad.”
What they are saying about him: “He’s the perfect player. He’s the most valuable player in Asia. We want to do whatever it takes to get him as soon as possible.” – Oleg Dolmatov, former FC Rostov manager
Here is an interesting fact: Anytime a Russian newspaper wants to conduct an interview with the North Korean international, he must pass the request to a government official who accompanies him at all times.