Korea National League

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Korea National League
Korea national league.png
Founded2003; 16 years ago (2003)
(1964 as Korea Football League)
First season2003
CountryKorea Republic
ConfederationAFC (Asia)
Number of teams8
Level on pyramid3
Domestic cup(s)Korean FA Cup
League cup(s)Korea National League Championship
Current championsGyeongju KHNP
Most championshipsUlsan Hyundai Mipo Dolphin (7 titles)
2019 Korea National League
Korea National League
Revised RomanizationNaesyeneol rigeu
McCune–ReischauerNaesyŏnŏl rigŭ

The Korea National League is an association football league, the third tier of the South Korean football league system. It consists of 8 clubs. The league is considered a semi-professional league, but every player in the National League is a full-time professional footballer.


The league was officially founded in 2003 as the K2 League to raise the level of competition in Korea. Prior to that, various cup competitions were run by the governing body of semi-professional football. Competitions under the present body can be traced back to 1964, with the participants being mostly work sides of the major industries in Korea (banks, construction companies and the like). It was rebranded as the Korea National League at the beginning of 2006.

It had operated with a two-stage season since its inception, with the two-stage winners meeting in a two-legged championship playoff final at the end of the season before changing to a four team playoff in 2008. Kookmin Bank won the 2003 championship, and successfully defended their title in 2004. Incheon Korail claimed the title in 2005 before Kookmin Bank won it for a third time in 2006. Ulsan Hyundai Mipo Dolphin won the championship in 2007.

On December 18, 2009, Mokpo City Government FC & Yongin City Government FC were approved to join the league beginning with the 2010 season.

Promotion issue[edit]

Ever since the creation of the league, hopes had been high that a system of promotion and relegation would be implemented between the league and the K League, the professional football league in Korea. In 2006, it was agreed that, subject to meeting certain financial requirements, the National League champions would be eligible for promotion. Goyang KB Kookmin Bank, who triumphed over Gimpo Hallelujah to win the 2006 title, were the first side eligible for promotion; however, they controversially rejected the chance to return to the professional ranks.

The team received several threats from the National League ranging from being thrown out of the competition, to fines, to point deductions for the upcoming 2007 season. In the end, the side received a point deduction penalty, to be split into ten point deductions in the first and second stages of the 2007 season.

Following the case involving Goyang, teams in the National League signed agreements indicating whether or not they would seek promotion to the K-League if they won the National League in 2007. Ulsan Hyundai Mipo Dolphin, who won the championship in 2007, also rejected the chance to move up to the K-League despite previously indicating they would seek promotion.

In light of the issues surrounding the conditional promotion place in 2006 and 2007, the National League decided to end the system prior to the 2008 season.

On November 2, 2009, the new commissioner, Kwon Oh-Gab, announced that he would push the implementation of a promotion system with the K League within 3 years.

2018 season[edit]

Location of teams in 2018 Korea National League

The following 8 clubs compete in the Korea National League during the 2018 season:

Stadiums (2016)[edit]

Primary venues used in the Korea National League:

Busan Transportation Corporation Changwon FC Cheonan City Daejeon Korail Gangneung FC
Busan Gudeok Stadium Changwon Football Center Cheonan Football Center Daejeon Hanbat Stadium Gangneung Stadium
Capacity: 30,000 Capacity: 15,500 Capacity: 2,881 Capacity: 17,371 Capacity: 22,333
Gudeok Stadium 3.JPG Changwon Soccer Center 2.JPG Cheonan Soccer Center2.JPG Gangneung Stadium2.jpg
Gimhae FC Gyeongju KHNP Mokpo City Ulsan Hyundai Mipo Dolphin Yongin City
Gimhae Stadium Gyeongju Civic Stadium Mokpo International Football Center Ulsan Stadium Yongin Football Center
Capacity: 30,000 Capacity: 12,199 Capacity: 5,952 Capacity: 19,665 Capacity: 12,000
Korea-Gyeongju Public Stadium-01.jpg Ulsan Sports Complex1.JPG

All-time Member Clubs[edit]

There have been a total of 16 member clubs since the league was founded as the K2 League in 2003. Seoul replaced Hallelujah for the second stage of the 2003 season after protests by radical Wonbuddhists forced the Christian club out of Iksan. Hallelujah returned to the league in 2004 after moving to Gimpo. Sangmu B withdrew their team from the league at the end of 2005 in order for the team, essentially the reserve side of K-League team Gwangju Sangmu Bulsajo, to compete in the K-League Reserves League. In the 2010 season, Nowon Hummel FC moved to Chungju city in Chungbuk province, and the club's name changed to Chungju Hummel FC.

Teams are listed with present-day names in the case of sides that have changed names or locations previously:

Club Duration City
Ansan H FC 2003 First Stage, 2004–2012 Ansan, Gyeonggi
Gyeongju Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power FC 2003–Present Gyeongju, Gyeongbuk
Gangneung City FC 2003–Present Gangneung, Gangwon
Goyang KB Kookmin Bank FC 2003–2012 Goyang, Gyeonggi
Daejeon Korail FC 2003–Present Daejeon Metropolitan City
Chungju Hummel FC 2003–2012 Chungju, Chungbuk
Sangmu B 2003–2005 Icheon, Gyeonggi
Suwon City 2003–2012 Suwon, Gyeonggi
Ulsan Hyundai Mipo Dolphin 2003–2016 Ulsan Metropolitan City
Yesan FC 2003–2010 Yesan, Chungnam
Seoul FC 2003 Second Stage Seoul Metropolitan City
Changwon FC 2005–Present Changwon, Gyeongnam
Busan Transportation Corporation FC 2006–Present Busan Metropolitan City
Hongcheon Idu FC 2007–09 First Stage Hongcheon, Gangwon
Cheonan City FC 2008–Present Cheonan, Chungnam
Gimhae FC 2008–Present Gimhae, Gyeongnam
Mokpo City FC 2010–Present Mokpo, Jeonnam
Yongin City FC 2010–2016 Yongin, Gyeonggi

Defunct former clubs[edit]

Previous winners[edit]

Titles By Season[edit]

Goyang KB Sangmu B
Goyang KB Gangneung City
Incheon Korail Suwon City
Goyang KB Gimpo Hallelujah
Ulsan Hyundai Mipo Dolphin Suwon City
Ulsan Hyundai Mipo Dolphin Suwon City
Gangneung City Gimhae City
Suwon City Daejeon KHNP
Ulsan Hyundai Mipo Dolphin Goyang KB
Incheon Korail Goyang KB
Ulsan Hyundai Mipo Dolphin Gyeongju KHNP
Ulsan Hyundai Mipo Dolphin Daejeon Korail
Ulsan Hyundai Mipo Dolphin Gyeongju KHNP
Ulsan Hyundai Mipo Dolphin Gangneung City
Gyeongju KHNP Gimhae City
Gyeongju KHNP Gimhae City

Titles By Club[edit]

Winners Runner-up
Ulsan Hyundai Mipo Dolphin 7 (2007, 2008, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Goyang KB 3 (2003, 2004, 2006) 2 (2011, 2012)
Gyeongju KHNP 2 (2017, 2018) 3 (2010, 2013, 2015)
Daejeon Korail 2 (2005, 2012) 1 (2014)
Suwon City 1 (2010) 3 (2005, 2007, 2008)
Gangneung City 1 (2009) 2 (2004, 2016)
Gimhae City 3 (2009, 2017, 2018)
Sangmu B 1 (2003)
Ansan H FC 1 (2006)

Notable players[edit]

Sangmu players[edit]

Other players[edit]