In ancient times, Silla, one of Three Kingdoms of Korea, had a ball game called 'chuk-guk' (Hangul: 축국, Hanja: 蹴鞠) very similar in form to contemporary football. However, Koreans first saw the present version of football in 1882 when British crew members played a game while their vessel, HMS Flying Fish, was visiting the Port of Jemulpo.
The first All Korea Football Tournament named All Joseon Football Championship was held in 1921. Prior to first championship, Joseon Sports Association was created in 1920. In 1928, Joseon Referee Association was created. Before the creation of the Joseon Football Association in 1933, two organizations hosted the competitions. The creation of Joseon Football Association led to the establishment of several prominent club sides on the peninsula as Korean football began to enter a different form. The All Joseon Football Championship, which had until 1932 been a tournament almost exclusively between academic institutions, included a 'professional' class from 1933 which, along with the immensely popular Kyungsung (now Seoul)-Pyongyang inter-city football series, raised interest levels in the sport greatly.
The Korea Football Association was reinstated in 1948, following the establishment of the Republic of Korea. The KFA became a member of FIFA, the international football governing body, in 1948. The same year, the South Korea national football team made its international debut at the Olympic Games in London. The KFA joined the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in 1954. The first Korean player to earn international recognition was Cha Bum-kun, who played in the German Bundesliga in the 1980s. Another star was Park Ji-sung, who played for PSV Eindhoven and Manchester United during the 2000s.
The South Korea national football team, nicknamed "Taeguk Warriors", is one of the most successful teams in Asia, leading the continent in FIFA World Cup finals appearances with eight, and the best performance by an Asian squad by reaching the semifinal of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, co-hosted by the Koreans along with Japan.
South Korea first appeared in the 1954 FIFA World Cup, as the second Asian team to ever enter the World Cup after Indonesia. Qualifying happened on March 1954, barely one year after the end of the Korean War. Only South Korea and Japan wound up competing for the Asian spot in the Cup, and as the Koreans refused to give visas to their rivals and former colonizers, both qualifier games were held in Tokyo. With a squad that consisted entirely of army personnel, South Korea eliminated Japan with a 5-3 victory followed by a 2-2 draw.
South Korea played games against Hungary and Turkey, losing 9–0 and 7–0 respectively. The 16 goals against in a single edition are still the tournament record.
South Korea started qualification first round with Malaysia and Nepal. They qualified first round as group winner, in second round they met Indonesia. They beat Indonesia and Japan in final round, they gained one of two spots of Asia.
In finals, South Korea was allocated in group A with Argentina, Italy and Bulgaria. Their first match was against Argentina, who beat South Korea 3–1, with Diego Maradona playing a major part. Park Chang-Sun scored the first Korean goal in World Cup history. South Korea and Bulgaria drew 1–1 in a downpour, followed by a close defeat to defending champions Italy, 3–2.
South Korea went undefeated during the qualifiers, with 9 wins and 2 draws in total. In finals, allocated in group E with Belgium, Spain and Uruguay, they dropped out in the group stage, losing all games.
Under coach Kim Ho and technical supervisor Anatoli Byshovets, the South Korean third straight appearance in the World Cup was an improvement over the previous two, with two ties and a loss. Along with a 0-0 against Bolivia, twice the Koreans' fitness made them survive stronger European teams, tying Spain in the final minutes of their 2-2 bout, and reducing Germany's lead from 3-0 to 3-2.
Former star Cha Bum-kun coached South Korea. Following two harrowing defeats, 3-1 to Mexico and 5-0 to the Netherlands, Cha was fired, being replaced in their final game by assistant Kim Pyung-seok. Belgium opened the score early, but Korea tied with 19 minutes remaining.
South Korea was one of the host nations for the 2002 FIFA World Cup tournament, along with Japan. Led by Dutch coach Guus Hiddink, and assistant coach Pim Verbeek, South Korean team achieved their first ever victory in the first stage (2–0, against Poland), and after a 1–1 draw with the USA, and a further 1–0 victory against heavily favored Portugal, the South Korean team qualified for the second round.
The USA's shock 3-2 win over Portugal, together with a draw against South Korea was enough to send them through, even though they lost 1-3 against Poland. Portugal were eliminated with one win and two losses, including one against South Korea. Poland were also eliminated, despite beating the USA in their final game.
Their second round opponents were Italy, who were defeated 2–1 after extra time. The South Korea public then began to dream of a semi-final berth, which was attained on defeating Spain on penalties, thereby surpassing the record of their North Korean counterparts 36 years before.
The South Korean team's run was halted by lost 1-0 to Germany in the semi-finals, and lost 3–2 to Turkey in the third place playoff.
During the 2006 World Cup, South Korea achieved their first World Cup victory outside Asia by beating Togo 2–1. They then drew 1–1 against eventual finalists France, but lost 2–0 to Switzerland, which knocked them out of the tournament.
South Korea won the 2010 World Cup AFC qualification with 16 points – 7 wins and 7 draws in total – making them the only team unbeaten throughout the whole campaign.
They then qualified for the knockout stages of the 2010 World Cup Group B with 4 points, winning 2–0 against Greece, losing 4–1 to Argentina and drawing 2–2 with Nigeria. At the knockout stage they met Uruguay, which ended in a 2-1 loss for South Korea, eliminating them from the tournament.
Led by 2002 captain Hong Myung-Bo, South Korea entered their eighth consecutive World Cup with expectations following the 2010 qualification and a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympic Tournament.
On their opener against Russia, Lee Keun-ho scored on an error by goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, only for Aleksandr Kerzhakov to equalize following a scramble in the Korean goal. The high-scoring match that followed had Algeria beating the Koreans 4-2. Korea outshot a 10-man Belgium squad in the final game of group stage, but wound up defeated by a late goal by Jan Vertonghen. The early exit lead the Korean squad to be pelted with Yeot (Korean traditional confectionery) upon arrival in Incheon, and Hong to resign shortly afterwards.AFC Club Championship
1985 – Daewoo Royals
1995–96 – Ilhwa Chunma (Final was held before the relocation to Cheonan)
1996–97 – Pohang Steelers
1997–98 – Pohang Steelers
2000–01 – Suwon Samsung Bluewings
2001–02 – Suwon Samsung Bluewings
2006 – Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
2009 – Pohang Steelers
2010 – Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma
2012 – Ulsan Hyundai
2016 – Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
Asian Super Cup (Abolished)
1996 – Cheonan Ilhwa Chunma
2001 – Suwon Samsung Bluewings
2002 – Suwon Samsung Bluewings