As the latest K League 1 season nears, here's a quick guide to help you become familiar with all 12 teams, their history, honours and rivalries ahead of the 2020 campaign.
Manager: Cho Duk-je | Nickname: The Royals | Established: 1983
Mascot: Ddukdi | Rivals: Gyeongnam FC, Ulsan Hyundai | Stadium: Gudeok Stadium
As one of the founding members of the K League, Busan IPark have enjoyed a wealth of success under their former guises over the years but have had differing fortunes since the turn of the century. Having succumbed to relegation in 2015, it has taken four attempts in the K League 2 playoffs but Cho Duk-je's men finally achieved promotion last season, overcoming the neighbouring Gyeongnam FC in the process. This year will likely see the southern coast side primarily target survival as they look to establish themselves as a powerhouse of Korean football once more.
Honours: K League 1 (1984, 1987, 1991, 1997), FA Cup (2004), AFC Champions League (1985-86) League Cup (1997, 1997s, 1998s), National Football Championship (1989, 1990) Afro-Asian Club Championship (1986)
Manager: Lee Byeong-geun (caretaker) | Nickname: The Sky Blues | Established: 2002
Mascot: Rika | Stadium: DGB Daegu Bank Park
Formed in 2002, Daegu FC are one of the league's oldest citizen-owned clubs, where funding from the team comes primarily from the local government. They suffered relegation in 2013 but, after three seasons in the lower tier, they returned to the top flight stronger than ever. The club lifted its first piece of silverware in 2018, beating Ulsan Hyundai over two legs in the FA Cup and subsequently earning AFC Champions League qualification. Last season saw the team move to a football-specific stadium in the centre of the city which has seen them clock up nine sellouts in addition to their highest placed position to date. The Sky Blues will be hoping that 2020 can see them build on these recent achievements and qualify for continental competition once more.
Honours: FA Cup (2018)
Manager: Kim Byung-soo | Nickname: The Bears | Established: 2008
Mascot: Gang-woongi | Stadium: Songnam Sports Town, Chuncheon
Gangwon FC were formed as a citizen club at the end of 2008 and began competing in the K League in 2009. They spent three seasons from 2014 to 2016 in the second tier before triumphing over Seongnam FC in the play-offs to regain their top-flight status. Gangwon are still yet to lift silverware but finished in the top half for only the second time in their history in 2019, playing attractive attacking football (aka 'Byung-soo Ball') that manager Kim Byung-soo will hope to build upon in 2020.
Highest Finish: 6th (2017, 2019)
Manager: Park Jin-seop | Nickname: Bitgoeul (Land of Shine) | Established: 2010
Mascot: Boni | Stadium: Gwangju World Cup Stadium
Since playing their first season back in 2011, citizen-owned Gwangju FC are one of three clubs to have been relegated to the second tier twice since the K League 2 formed in 2013. Last season, Gwangju found themselves as runaway champions of the lower division, comfortably winning promotion back to K League 1. This year will also see Gwangju move away from their World Cup Stadium (also known as the 'Guus Hiddink Stadium' after the former Korea manager) into a football-specific stadium being constructed adjacent to their current home. The club will undoubtedly be targeting survival this season but a good run of form, as they showed throughout their last campaign, could see them surpass their all-time highest position of eighth.
Honours: K League 2 (2019)
Manager: Lim Wan-seop | Nickname: Neroazzurre (Blue-Black) | Established: 2003
Mascot: Yuti | Rivals: FC Seoul, Suwon Samsung Bluewings | Stadium: Incheon Football Stadium
Incheon United played their first season back in 2004 and by their second they managed to reach the Championship Play-off Finals where they finished as runners-up to Ulsan Hyundai. The Neroazzurre have not reached those heights since but did flirt with glory once more in 2015 when they made it to the FA Cup Final, losing to Gyeongin Derby rivals FC Seoul. In the league, recent seasons have seen them battle relegation on an annual basis yet they have always managed to survive with some memorable last round heroics that still burn strong in their fanbase's minds. This campaign, under the leadership of newly appointed manager Lim Wan-seop, Incheon will hope they can do more than survive as they push for at least a mid-table finish.
Highest Finish: Runners Up (2005)
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
Manager: José Morais | Nickname: Green Warriors | Established: 1994
Mascot: Cho-a | Rivals: Jeonnam Dragons, FC Seoul, Suwon Samsung Bluewings | Stadium: Jeonju World Cup Stadium
Despite being formed in 1994, it was not until the 21st Century that Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors began to claim silverware. The last decade has seen them cement themselves as a K League powerhouse, lifting seven league titles since 2009 and five within the last six years, making them very much the team to beat. This season, if Jeonbuk can claim first place once more, they will make K League history by recording both an unprecedented eighth title and also a fourth-in-a-row.
Honours: K League 1 (2009, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019), FA Cup (2000, 2003, 2005), AFC Champions League (2006, 2016)
Manager: Kim Ki-dong | Nickname: The Steelers | Established: 1973
Mascot: Swidoli | Rivals: Ulsan Hyundai | Stadium: Pohang Steel Yard
Another founding member of the division, Pohang Steelers are one of the most successful sides in both K League and AFC Champions League history. Success has been less frequent in recent years, with a famous domestic league and cup double back in 2013 being their last taste of silverware. After some encouraging attacking displays towards the end of last season, hopes are that The Steelers can pose a threat once more to top three and return to continental action.
Honours: K League 1 (1986, 1988, 1992, 2007, 2013), FA Cup (1996, 2008, 2012, 2013), AFC Champions League (1996-97, 1997-98, 2009), League Cup (1993, 2009)
Manager: Kim Tae-wan | Nickname: The Army | Established: 2011
Mascot: Peosi | Rivals: Asan Mugunghwa | Stadium: Sangju Civic Stadium
Sangju Sangmu are the league's military side, with a squad made up of loaned-out professional K League players undertaking their 20-month national service. The side formed in 2011 after relocation from Gwangju, and suffered relegation twice but were able to earn promotion back both on the first times of asking. Recent seasons, under the stewardship of manager Kim Tae-wan, has seen the army team improve, finishing seventh last season and making it to the FA Cup semi-finals. This season Sangju are bolstered by some sizable names and will be hoping to break into the league's top half for the first time since 2016.
Honours: K League 2 (2013, 2015)
Manager: Kim Nam-il | Nickname: The Magpies | Established: 1989
Mascot: Kka-oh | Rivals: Suwon Samsung Bluewings, FC Seoul | Stadium: Tancheon Stadium
Seongnam FC are one of the league's most decorated clubs, particularly under their former guise of Seongnam Ilhwa. The club has lifted the league title no fewer than seven times, winning three times consecutively on two separate occasions. Their conversion to a citizen club ahead of the 2014 season coincided with some more difficult times, seeing the team relegated in 2016 and spending two years in the second-tier. Their return to K League 1 last year saw the team survive comfortably in 9th and the Magpies will be hoping to build on this in 2020.
Honours: K League 1 (1993, 1994, 1995, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006), FA Cup (1999, 2011, 2013), AFC Champions League (1995, 2010), League Cup (1992, 2002, 2004), Afro-Asian Club Championship (1996)
Manager: Choi Yong-soo | Established: 1983
Mascot: SSID | Rivals: Suwon Samsung Bluewings, Incheon United, Seongnam FC, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, FC Anyang | Stadium: Seoul World Cup Stadium
FC Seoul are the capital's top-flight team and have enjoyed various domestic success over the years under different guises. The club have lifted the K League title three times within the last decade, last claiming it under dramatic circumstances on the final day of the 2016 season against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. After the side briefly flirted with the prospect of relegation in 2018, last season saw manager Choi Yong-soo turn the club around and finish third, gaining continental football for this year in doing so. 2020 will see Choi and his men try to go one step further as they look to pose a title challenge once more and restore their reputation as one of the more feared clubs in Korean football.
Honours: K League 1 (1985, 1990, 2000, 2010, 2012, 2016), FA Cup (1998, 2015), League Cup (2006, 2010), National Football Championship (1988)
Suwon Samsung Bluewings
Manager: Lee Lim-saeng | Nickname: Blue Wings | Established: 1995
Mascot: Akilaeon | Rivals: FC Seoul, Seongnam FC, Suwon FC, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors | Stadium: Suwon World Cup Stadium
Suwon Samsung Bluewings are one of the more renowned names in Korean football, having enjoyed both domestic and continental success around the turn of the decade. The Blue Wings also boast the reputation of being one of the better "cup" sides in the division, holding the record for the most number of FA Cups (five) and the now-abolished League Cup (six). One of those FA Cups came last season, ensuring their place in the AFC Champions League for 2020. However, after a disappointing league campaign last time out, manager Lee Lim-saeng will be hoping to steer his side to a better showing in the division this year.
Honours: K League 1 (1998, 1999, 2004, 2008), FA Cup (2002, 2009, 2010, 2016, 2019), AFC Champions League (2000-01, 2001-02), League Cup (1999, 1999s, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2008),
Manager: Kim Do-hoon | Nickname: Horangi (The Tigers) | Established: 1983
Mascot: Geonho | Rivals: Pohang Steelers, Busan IPark | Stadium: Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium
Ulsan Hyundai also make up part of the K League's founding members club, having been established in 1983 as the Hyundai Horang-i. Despite this long history, they have fewer honours to speak off yet still remain as one of the division's heavyweights, coming agonisingly close to the lifting the title on a number of occasions. One such occasion was last season where they finished second to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on a single goal scored but, after a winter of rebuilding, manager Kim Do-hoon and his Horangi will be hoping to challenge once more and go that extra step further in 2020.
Honours: K League (1996, 2005), FA Cup (2017), AFC Champions League (2012), League Cup (1986, 1995, 1998, 2007, 2011)
[Read: 2020 K League 2 Guide]