Recently, Incheon United has been enjoying a golden era like never before.
They’ve shed their tired title of “survivors” and emerged as the new leaders of the city club. After a miraculous stay in the 2020 season, Incheon has been on a steep upward trajectory since the appointment of Cho Sung-hwan. After finishing eighth in 2021, Incheon leapt into the mid-table, finishing fourth in 2022 and qualifying for their first ever Asian Champions League. This season, they failed to qualify for the Asian stage for the second consecutive year, but continued their momentum by reaching the Final A.
At the center is the three-headed wagon of Director Cho Sung-hwan, CEO Jeon Dal-soo, and Chief of Power Enhancement Lim Joong-yong. The three have transformed Incheon through open communication and rational decisions. The system is perfectly in place: Cho makes a request, Lim makes it a reality, and Jeon backs it up. Incheon’s quick decision-making led to a series of league-leading players such as Lee Myung-joo, Shin Shin-ho, and Jerso, which translated into results. The results, in turn, led to box office and marketing, creating a pleasant virtuous cycle.
However, the system that created the “Incheon Spring” is on the verge of collapse. Two of its key players, Jeon and Lim, are considering resigning. Incheon has recently been plagued by malicious accusations. It started last October. A complaint was filed with the Incheon National Police Agency, alleging that Lim had used his influence over then-Daegungo coach Kim Jung-woo to get a player selected for the U-18 team who wasn’t even good enough, thus interfering with the club’s business. Lim was devastated, but withstood the pressure and the unflattering publicity surrounding him and proved his innocence. The investigation resulted in a decision to dismiss the case, stating that no crime was recognized and no charges were filed.
The complainant then filed a complaint against Lim, the then head of youth affairs, the U-12 team manager, and the U-15 team manager, alleging that the promotion of his grandson from the Incheon youth team was done through improper procedures and methods. The result was another no-case.
However, the coach of the U-12 team was sent to prosecutors for child abuse. However, the police concluded that he was not guilty. According to the Child Welfare Act, the police cannot close the case and must send it to the prosecutor’s office, so the case is likely to be dropped, said Sohn Soo-ho, a lawyer for the Incheon club.
In addition to the mental stress, the financial damage caused by the lawyer’s fees was also significant. However, according to Incheon’s bylaws, there was no basis for the club to provide legal fees. In order to create an atmosphere where employees can work with confidence in their positions, I decided to create a clause that would cover a certain amount of expenses by referring to other companies’ bylaws. He notified the board of directors to put it on the agenda.
To his surprise, it wasn’t long before another accusation was made. The former president was accused of embezzlement for paying the club’s legal fees. Moreover, the accused Incheon employees, including Lim, have yet to retain a dime of their legal fees. This accuser was the same accuser who made two previous accusations. An accusation is an accusation, but what’s even more shocking is that what was discussed internally was leaked to the outside world. The subsequent subcommittee meeting was also leaked.
He was recently investigated by the police. In the face of the situation, Mr. Jeon sighs that he is “exhausted.” Last year, Jeon also decided to resign after being swayed by outside forces. Overwhelmed by the passion of the fans, who created an unprecedented “residual truck” for the K League at their own expense, Jeon took up the challenge again, but this time he said, “It’s really hard. I want to leave.” Mr. Lim feels the same way.
With the news that Jeon and Lim might leave Incheon, Incheon fans are once again agitated. They want to be more than ‘residual trucks’. “The more Jeon tries to embrace it, saying, ‘This is also his fault,’ the more people take advantage of it,” said an official familiar with the situation. Incheon is making progress, but there is no one applauding internally. There are only people who are busy making their own successors and thinking about how to take over. It’s frustrating to see Incheon’s hard-earned spring shaken not by external enemies but by internal ones.”