National team manager Hong Myung-bo on Monday released the list of 25 players he has selected for two upcoming friendlies. Korea will play Brazil at Seoul World Cup Stadium on Oct. 12 and Mali three days later in Cheonan.
This marks the first time that Ki Sung-yueng, who plays for Sunderland in the English Premier League, will don the national team colors under Hong's leadership.
Since last summer, Ki has been on a roller-coaster ride. He was a part of Korea's bronze-medal-winning team at the 2012 London Olympics and had a fantastic season with Swansea City. He also made headlines in July when he married actress Han Hye-jin, eight years his senior.
But things took a turn for the worse when disparaging remarks about former national team manager Choi Kang-hee from his private Facebook account were leaked in July. Although Ki issued an apology through his agent, it left a bad taste in the mouth of the public in general.
Meanwhile, his position at Swansea hit rock bottom this summer as rumors of problems between Ki and club manager Michael Laudrup began to emerge. Ki ended up moving to Sunderland on loan just before the transfer window closed, and he has not yet got back into his groove. Moreover, the club sacked manager Paolo Di Canio after a poor start to the season and now sits at the bottom of the EPL with one draw and five losses.
Hong, who met with Ki during his recent scouting trip to England, said at a press conference on Monday, "Ki has told me that he regrets the comments he made. Now it's time for him to show his value on the pitch."
The only striker in Hong's new squad is Ji Dong-won, who also plays for Sunderland, although two other forwards who can play supporting roles were included: Koo Ja-cheol of Wolfsburg in Germany's Bundesliga, and Lee Keun-ho, who plays for Sangju Sangmu in Korea.
"I will see who's the best pick, and which combination works best in training and through matches," said Hong. "Ji hasn't been able to play in many games lately. I want to give him a chance, and I hope such encouragement eventually helps him regain his place with his club."
However, Hong doesn't seem prepared to gamble on Arsenal forward Park Chu-young due to fears the player has too much rust to shake off.
"Park hasn't played since April, but I hope he can show his fans what he's still capable of," he said.