There's nothing quite like derby day and a win over your team's rivals. And so with the new season edging closer, a guide to the derbies of K League 1 in 2023. From the Gyeonggin Derby in the northwest to the East Coast Derby in the southeast, a look at some of the biggest rivalries in Korean football.
K League Matches Played: 59 Incheon United Wins: 16 Draws: 20 FC Seoul Wins: 23
Goals Scored: Incheon United 57-82 FC Seoul
The Gyeongin Derby is a match between Incheon United and FC Seoul and although the origins of the name are unclear, the Gyeongin Expressway is the stretch of motorway which connects the cities of Incheon and Seoul and so the match can be seen as the battle of bragging rights across Highway 120. The first game took place on 15th May 2005 and wasn't called the 'Gyeongin Derby' initially but the name became widely used by fans and the media alike in the following years.
The most memorable meeting between the pair may well be the 2015 FA Cup Final where FC Seoul came out as winners, but Incheon fans will most likely cling to memories of their victory over their rivals on the final day of the 2020 season to avoid relegation. It was, until 2017, a relatively one-sided rivalry with FC Seoul picking up most of the wins but Incheon enjoyed a six-match unbeaten stretch from September 2017 to April 2019. Presently, Incheon are on a seven-game unbeaten against Seoul. The first Gyeongin Derby of 2023 is scheduled for the opening day of the season when FC Seoul host Incheon.
Round 1, 25th February 2023 - FC Seoul vs Incheon United
Round 17, 7th June 2023 - Incheon United vs FC Seoul
Round 24, 22nd July 2023 - FC Seoul vs Incheon United
K League Matches Played
: 12 Suwon Bluewings Wins
: 5 Draws
: 1 Suwon FC Wins
Goals Scored: Suwon Samsung Bluewings 17-22 Suwon FC
One of the newer derbies in K League 1 is the Suwon Derby, contested between city rivals Suwon Samsung Bluewings and Suwon FC. Despite the stadiums being only 2.5km apart, the two sides have clashed just 14 times, the first came in the FA Cup when a then-Suwon City FC had yet to join the K League. The first K League meetings were back in 2016 in what was Suwon FC's first campaign in the top flight. The matches between the two that year, though, were enough to whet the appetite for more with high-scoring encounters including the 5-4 Suwon FC win at Big Bird followed by a 3-2 Bluewings win away towards the end of that season. In 2021, following Suwon FC's promotion the year before, the rivalry was rekindled. Last year there were, on average, over three goals per meeting.
Round 3, 11th March 2023 - Suwon FC vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings
Round 16, 3rd June 2023 - Suwon Samsung Bluewings vs Suwon FC
Round 25, 5th August 2023 - Suwon Samsung Bluewings vs Suwon FC
K League Meetings: 99 FC Seoul Wins: 39 Draws: 25 Suwon Samsung Bluewings Wins: 35
Goals Scored: FC Seoul 122-130 Suwon Samsung Bluewings
One of the K League's fiercest derbies, contested between FC Seoul and Suwon Samsung Bluewings, has a storied history featuring several memorable bouts between the pair. Dubbed the 'Super Match', this fixture is a clash marked on the calendars, of not only each team's supporters but of K League fans across the world due to its reputation as one of the biggest rivalries in the division.
It dates back to the mid-90s when the two clubs (Suwon and Anyang Cheetahs) were owned by Korea's largest electronics companies, Samsung and LG before a subsidiary of the latter, GS, separated and became its own company in 2005. Some of the more dramatic encounters for this fixture include the 2008 K League Final and the closely contested 2016 FA Cup Final, both of which saw the Bluewings eventually emerge victorious. The first Super Match of 2023 will be the 100th in K League.
Round 8, 22nd April 2023 - FC Seoul vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings
Round 19, 24th June 2023 - Suwon Samsung Bluewings vs FC Seoul
Round 29, 2nd September 2023 - Suwon Samsung Bluewings vs FC Seoul
East Coast Derby
K League Meetings: 174 Ulsan Hyundai Wins: 58 Draws: 52 Pohang Steelers Wins: 64
Goals Scored: Ulsan Hyundai 209-209 Pohang Steelers
Perhaps one of the K League's most historic derbies takes place on the country's coast between Pohang Steelers and Ulsan Hyundai. Named the 'Donghaean Derby', or 'East Coast Derby' in English. The fixture has seen two of K League's founding members make the familiar 53km trip to contest some of the league's most famous matches.
Perhaps one of Ulsan Hyundai's most memorable wins in this encounter was back in the 1998 K League Championship semifinal, where a last-minute goal for Ulsan from legendary Korean goalkeeper Kim Byung-ji sent the tie into extra time before Kim built on his heroics by saving two penalties in the shootout to see the Horangi progress. Kim's transfer to Pohang a few years later would only further intensify the rivalry.
Pohang Steelers have also had their fair share of dramatic wins in this encounter. In 2013 the pair were in a heated race for the title, culminating in a final-day meetup that saw the Steelers win the match and the league with a 95th-minute goal from Kim Won-il. Pohang have also played spoiler in recent seasons, claiming wins over their rivals in the final run-in to help deny Ulsan from overthrowing Jeonbuk. In 2021, the two sides met in the AFC Champions League semifinal in a dramatic affair that saw Pohang fight back to earn a late draw, force extra time then go through on penalties. The East Coast Derby is not to be missed.
Round 8, 22nd April 2023 - Ulsan Hyundai vs Pohang Steelers
Round 21, 8th July 2023 - Pohang Steelers vs Ulsan Hyundai
Round 32, 30th September 2023 - Pohang Steelers vs Ulsan Hyundai
Capital of Football Derby
K League Meetings: 56 Suwon Samsung Bluewings Wins: 29 Draws: 16 Daejeon Hana Citizen Wins: 11
Goals Scored: Suwon Samsung Bluewings 87-45 Daejeon Hana Citizen
With Daejeon Hana Citizen's return to K League 1 the so-called 'Capital of Football Derby' returns too. The exact origins of the name are unclear but it centres on the passionate support of both clubs. Daejeon, despite finishing in the bottom half of the table for most of their previous spells in K League 1, often drew large crowds while the Bluewings are a club that's known the world over for having a devoted and passionate fanbase. Both, at some point, have declared their respective cities as the capital of football - Daejeon the football capital of South Korea while Suwon was declared as a football special city. Each meeting, then, is like a bout to determine the undisputed football capital of Korea.
The two teams haven't met in the league since 2015 but did go toe to toe in the FA Cup in 2021 with Suwon Bluewings coming out on top in a 2-1 win. They meet as soon as Round 4 in what will be the first K League encounter since Daejeon were taken over by Hana Financial Group.
Round 4, 19th March 2023 - Suwon Samsung Bluewings vs Daejeon Hana Citizen
Round 21, 9th July 2023 - Daejeon Hana Citizen vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings
Round 31, 23rd September - Daejeon Hana Citizen vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings
K League Meetings: 21 Daegu FC Wins: 7 Draws: 5 Gwangju FC Wins: 8
Goals Scored: Daegu FC 30-31 Gwangju FC
The Dalbit Derby, or Moonlight Derby, is a match between Gwangju FC and Daegu FC and with the former returning to the top tier this term, so does the derby. It brings together teams from the two of the biggest cities in the Honam and Youngnam regions, Honam being the Jeolla provinces and Youngnam the Gyeongnsang provinces. There has been a rivalry between the two areas even away from the football field, politically and in the world of baseball with KIA Tigers and Samsung Lions. This history led to Gwangju FC's first game in K League in 2011 being against Daegu - winning 3-2.
The name harks back to the old name for Daegu, 'Dalgubeol' and od name for Gwangju which was 'Bitgoeul' so bringing together the two it became Dal-bit or 'Moonlight' in English. There have been some high-scoring encounters in recent seasons, most notably the 6-4 Gwangju win in August 2020, Daegu's 4-2 win the month before and the 4-1 Gwangju win the following year.
Round 7, 16th April 2023 - Daegu FC vs Gwangju FC
Round 13, 12th May 2023 - Gwangju FC vs Daegu FC
Round 23, 15th July 2023 - Gwangju FC vs Daegu FC