All you need to know about the 13 teams set to compete in the 2023 Hana 1Q K League 2 campaign including newcomers Cheonan City and Chungbuk Cheongju.
Manager: Lim Jong-heon | Captain: Kim Young-nam | Nickname: Green Wolves | Est: 2017 | Mascot: Dani, Loni | Rivals: FC Anyang | Stadium: Ansan Wa~ Stadium (2007, 35,000)
Following Ansan Mugunghwa's move to Asan, the city of Ansan sought to found a citizen team and in 2017, following a fan vote for the name, Ansan Greeners were born. The Greeners' first-ever match was a 2-1 home victory over Daejeon Citizen on the opening day of the 2017 season. In 2019 the Green Wolves recorded their highest finish by securing fifth place and only narrowly missed out on a place in the playoffs. The Greeners are part of one of the league's budding rivalries, the Line 4 Derby, with FC Anyang, named after the Seoul Metropolitan Subway Line which connects the two cities. After finishing ninth last year and seventh in 2021, the Green Wolves will be hoping for a change of fortunes this season.
Highest K League 2 Finish: 5th (2019)
2022 Finish: 9th
Manager: Lee Woo-hyung | Captain: Baek Dong-gyu | Nickname: Violets | Est: 2013 | Mascot: Bati | Rivals: Ansan Greeners, FC Seoul | Stadium: Anyang Sports Complex (1986, 17,143)
FC Anyang are one of the founding members of K League 2 having joined what was then the K League Challenge in 2013 for its debut season. The Violets missed out on the playoffs in 2014 by finishing fifth which, up until 2021 was their highest-ever finish. That was until Anyang finished second in 2021 to secure a place in the promotion playoff final, they also finished third last season to further establish themselves as one of the perennial promotion favourites. In fact, last season, under manager Lee Woo-hyung, the Violets came closer than ever by reaching promotion-relegation final with Suwon Samsung Bluewings only to lose to a 120th-minute Oh Hyeon-gyu goal. Anyang will be aiming to go one better this time around.
Highest K League 2 Finish: 2nd (2021)
2022 Finish: 3rd
Bucheon FC 1995
Manager: Lee Young-min | Captain: Kim Ho-nam | Nickname: Hermes, Reds | Est: 2007 | Mascot: Hergun, Borayang | Rivals: Jeju United, Incheon United | Stadium: Bucheon Stadium (2008, 34,456)
Spawned following Bucheon SK's move to Jeju Island and becoming Jeju United, citizen club Bucheon FC 1995 joined K League 2 in 2013 after five years in the Challengers League, now K3. The Reds have experienced somewhat contrasting final league positions over the years, finishing as high as third in 2016 and as low as 10th (bottom) in 20121. But in 2022, Bucheon made it into the playoffs for what was their third forray into the K League post-season, the first being in 2016 and the second in 2019. But defeat to Gyeongnam at home in the semifinal meant it was another season in the second tier for Lee Young-min's men. Notoriously strong starters, Bucheon will be looking to bounce back from last season's playoff heartbreak.
Highest K League 2 Finish: 3rd (2016)
2022 Finish: 4th
Manager: Park Jin-sub | Captain: Lee Han-do | Nickname: Royals | Est: 1983 | Mascot: Ddukdi | Rivals: Gyeongnam FC, Ulsan Hyundai | Stadium: Busan Asiad Stadium (2001, 53,769)
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 differing fortunes since the turn of the century. Having succumbed to relegation in 2015, it took four playoff attempts for the south coast side to achieve promotion in 2019, overcoming rivals Gyeongnam FC in the process. But relegation followed in 2020 and the club have been looking to win promotion back to the top flight since. Experienced manager Park Jin-sub took over midway through 2022 who the Royals faithful will be hoping can repeat his Gwangju FC success with whom he achieved promotion in 2019.
Honours: K League 1 (1984, 1987, 1991, 1997), Playoff winners (2019), FA Cup (2004), AFC Champions League (1985-86) League Cup (1997, 1997s, 1998s), National Football Championship (1989, 1990) Afro-Asian Club Championship (1986)
2022 Finish: 10th
Manager: Park Nam-yeol | Captain: Kim Joo-heon | Est: 2008 | Mascot: Narang-i | Stadium: Cheonan Stadium (2001, 26,000)
Cheonan City are brand new to K League and will be making their first steps into fully professional football in 2023. The club itself, though, has been around since 2008 when, until 2019, competed in the National League before joining K3 the following year. The team is headed by manager Park Nam-yeol who served as assistant manager to Seongnam FC in 2013 and Jeonnam Dragons in 2018. Park is a former midfielder who finished his playing career with Suwon Bluewings in 2004. The club's crest features the towers outside the Independence Hall of Korea which, for the team, represents the "noble spirit" of the independence movement through football with the people of the city. The club have been busy in the winter transfer window, signing players with K League experience such as Han Seok-hee, Damir Sovsic, and Kim Chang-soo.
Chungbuk Cheongju are the other team that's newly joining K League 2 for 2023. At the helm is former Daejeon, Gangwon, and Jeju boss Choi Yun-kyum who will have been happy with the club's recruitment over the winter, bringing in a raft of players with K League experience such as Ryu Won-woo, Kim Won-kyun, Jang Hyuk-jin, and Lee Seung-jae. The club was first founded in 2002 and competed at amateur level until 2009 when it joined the K3 League. With Chungbuk Cheongju and Cheonan City joining, K League 2 has a new derby - another Chungcheong derby to replace Daejeon vs Chungnam Asan following the former's promotion to K League 1.
Manager: Park Dong-hyuk | Captain: Park Se-jik | Nickname: Owls | Est: 2017 | Mascot: Bwong-bwongi | Stadium: Yi Sun-sin Stadium (2008, 17,376))
Chungnam Asan, formerly Asan Mugunghwa and Ansan Mugunghwa, were the police team up until 2018 before making the transition into a citizen team. This meant that, despite winning the K League 2 title in 2018, Park Dong-hyuk and his men were not permitted to be promoted to K League 1. Park Dong-hyuk has remained in charge throughout and after a tentative first full season as a citizen club in 2020, the Owls changed their home colours to blue. Chungnam Asan came close to reaching the playoffs for the first time last season by finishing fifth to record their best post-2018 finish. The team's home stadium is named after Yi Sun-sin, who was a Korean admiral and military general in the 1500s.
Honours: K League 2 (2018)
2022 Finish: 6th
Manager: Seong Han-su | Captain: Lee Young-jae | Est: 2021 | Mascot: Shyu-ung | Stadium: Gimcheon Civic Stadium (2000, 25,000)
Gimcheon 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 team moved from Sangju to Gimcheon in 2020 and had to drop into the second tier. In its previous guise as Sangju Sangmu, the team suffered relegation twice before but were able to earn promotion at the first time of asking on both occasions. The trend continued in 2021 with Gimcheon winning K League 2 and with a nine-point cushion but were relegated via the playoffs in 2022. The team has a new manager in Seong Han-su following the departure of long-serving Kim Tae-wan who has been involved with the army team setup since 2002 as a coach. With a fresh batch of recruits, the aim will be simple for Gimcheon Sangmu: another quick return to the top flight.
Honours: K League 2 Championship (2021)
2022 Finish: 11th (K League 1)
Manager: Ko Jeong-woon | Captain: Lee Sang-wook | Est: 2013 | Mascot: Posu | Stadium: Gimpo Solteo Stadium (2021, 5,000)
Gimpo FC head into what will be their second season in K League 2 this year after being the newcomers last year. After being founded in 2013 as Gimpo Citizen and playing in the K3 League, Gimpo joined K League last year. Under Ko Jeong-woon, Gimpo finished in a very respectable eighth place and picked up wins over the likes of Gwangju FC, Jeonnam Dragons, Gyeongnam FC, and Busan IPark. The team plays in dark green, the colour that represents growth and prosperity, to symbolise the city of Gimpo's rapidly rising population, the fastest in the country. The gold trim represents two of the city's trademarks, Gold Rice and the Gold Line on the Seoul metropolitan subway network which links the city to the rest of the region. With 13 teams in K League 2 in 2023, one team will have to sit a round out. For Round 1, which begins on March 1st, that will have to be Gimpo FC meaning fans have that little bit longer to wait before the start of the new campaign.
Highest K League 2 Finish: 8th (2022)
2022 Finish: 8th
Manager: Seok Ki-hyun | Captain: Woo Joo-sung | Nickname: Roses | Est: 2006 | Mascot: Gunhami, Gyeongmami | Rivals: Busan IPark | Stadium: Changwon Football Center (2009, 15,074)
Gyeongnam FC are the provincial club from South Gyeongsang and play most of their home games at Changwon Football Center, the province's largest city. The team was founded in 2006 and joined K League as the 14th club for the 2006 season. The Reds had an eight-year stay in the top flight before being relegated to the second tier in 2014, spending three seasons in what was then the K League Challenge. In 2017, though, Gyeongnam won K League 2 at a canter and then finished second in the top flight the following season, qualifying for the AFC Champions League for the first time ever. However, relegation followed via the playoffs after an aggregate defeat to rivals Busan IPark. The team is now led by Korean football legend Seol Ki-hyun who, as a player, had spells in England with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Reading, and Fulham. Seol guided Gyeongnam to the playoffs in 2022 but the Roses were knocked out by FC Anyang in the promotion final.
Honours: K League 2 (2017)
2022 Finish: 5th
Manager: Lee Jang-kwan | Captain: Lee Hoo-gwon | Nickname: Dragons | Est: 1995 | Mascot: Cheolryongi | Rivals: Pohang Steelers, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors | Stadium: Gwangyang Football Stadium (1993, 13,496)
Owned by POSCO Steel and being located in South Jeolla province, Jeonnam Dragons have rivalries with both Pohang Steelers and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. However, after suffering their first-ever relegation in 2018, the Dragons will have to wait before locking horns with their old foes. Jeonnam have four FA Cup wins to their name, the most recent coming in 2021 which qualified them for the 2022 AFC Champions League - the first K League 2 team to do so. But after finishing fourth in 2021, the Dragons ended the 2022 campaign rock bottom and so will be hoping that manager Lee Jang-kwan, who took over in June last year, can get the team breathing fire again.
Honours: FA Cup (1997, 2006, 2007, 2021)
2022 Finish: 11th (bottom)
Manager: Lee Ki-hyung | Captain: Sim Dong-woon | Nickname: Magpies | Est: 1989 | Mascot: Kka-oh | Rivals: Suwon Samsung Bluewings, FC Seoul | Stadium: Tancheon Sports Complex (2002, 16,146)
Seongnam FC are one of the league's most decorated clubs, particularly under their former guise of 'Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma'. The club has lifted the league title no fewer than seven times, winning three consecutive championships on two separate occasions. Their conversion to a citizen club ahead of the 2014 season began with an FA Cup win and a foray into the AFC Champions League the following season. But the Magpies have become something of a yo-yo club since then, suffered relegation in 2016 and had a two-year stay in the second tier before returning under the stewardship of Nam Ki-il. Coach Nam led them to ninth place in 2019 but have since returned to the second tier. Experienced manager Lee Ki-hyung is at the helm now and will be tasked with getting the Magpies flying again.
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)
2022 Finish: 12th (K League 1)
Manager: Park Choong-kyun | Captain: Han Yong-soo | Nickname: Leopards | Est: 2015 | Mascot: Bati | Rivals: FC Seoul | Stadium: Mokdong Stadium (1989, 15,511)
Owned by The E-Land Group, Seoul E-Land were formed in 2015 and made it to the playoffs in their debut season. The Leopards haven't been able to reach the playoff since but came very close in 2020. Seoul E-Land's home stadium history makes for interesting reading as the Leopards have left their first home, Jamsil Olympic Stadium while renovation work is completed and have moved into Mokdong Stadium in the west of the city. Seoul also played in Cheonan in 2019. The 2023 season will be the second at Mokdong and will be hoping that it continues to bring them some good fortune. Seoul finished ninth in 2021 but then seventh in 2022, another two-place jump in 2023 would put them in the playoffs for the first time since 2015.