Despite being one of the top dribbler prospects in the K League, Seo Jin-soo’s summer hasn’t been easy.
Jeju United are struggling to get out of their annual summer slump. This season’s slump was particularly bad, as Jeju rattled off eight wins and one draw in 10 games from the beginning of April, before lying low in June, when it started to heat up, with four draws and six defeats in 10 games. They seemed to shake off their slump with a 3-0 win over Suwon FC in round 26, but lost 0-1 at home to Suwon Samsung.
Along with the team’s performance, Seo’s personal record also slumped. Seo made his debut in 2019 at the age of 19 and is a “military-eligible prospect” who has already completed his military service with Gimcheon Sangmu. It’s not uncommon for players to lose their playing time at the age of 23, when they fall outside the U-22 rule, but Seo’s position in the team has been good. He has made nine starts and 16 substitute appearances this season.
Seo showed promise in the second half of last year, when he joined the team after leaving the military, scoring four goals in eight games. He also scored five goals in the early part of this season until the 15th round when the team was on the rise. However, he hasn’t scored in over two months.
Nevertheless, it’s the variety of his dribbling skills that make him stand out. Whether it’s a 360-degree turn to get between two opponents, or a deceptive pass to a teammate and then move to receive and hit the ball, Seo has a variety of techniques.
Dribbling comes from confidence. “I have confidence in my ball-keeping, and if you ask me what my strengths are, I can confidently say that I’m confident in ball-keeping, turns, and things like that. I’m not very fast, but I think I try to do that a lot in training. When I get the ball from the side, I don’t make meaningless backpasses or sideways passes, and if there’s a defender in front of me, I try to get past him, and I think that comes out naturally on the pitch.”
Seo Jin-soo’s recent turnaround has been nicknamed “Hallasan Roulette” by the club. When I asked Seo about the nickname, he said, “My brothers tease me a lot on the training field. Whenever we get on the bus, we talk about it. They say, ‘When I turn on my phone, only you come out, Jin-soo.’ I think there are a lot of nicknames based on the characteristics of Jeju Island. Hallasan, Tangerine, Hallabong…. I think it’s good, it’s cute. (Former) Jachul’s brother is still called Gujabong sometimes,” he said.
The senior who teases Seo Jin Soo the most is Kim Bong Soo. But Seo Jin-soo can afford it. Kim Bong-soo was selected for the Gimcheon Sangmu and will have to serve in the military starting next season. “When Bong-soo teases me, I tell him, ‘Go to the army,’ and he gets quiet. Sometimes he even counts the days until he has to enlist. It’s a military man’s leisure.”온라인바카
The club has also been trying to tie Seo’s name to the girl group NUJINS. Early in the season, they tried to make “Seo Jin-soo more than NUJINS” a catchphrase when they were scoring goals, and recently, they nicknamed the three strikers “Eugene’s” (Yuri + Seo Jin-soo + Hayes). When Seo Jin-soo heard about Eugene’s, he said, “I’m the only one who’s good among the three,” and then added, “Actually, I don’t think Hayes and Yuri even know what it is. At the beginning of the season, my brothers made fun of me a lot.