Kim Yeon-koung’s future unclear after veteran earns free agency for first time


Volleyball star Kim Yeon-koung has her first chance to leave the Incheon Heungkuk Life Pink Spiders and join a new V League team this offseason after earning free agency for the first time in her storied 18-year career.

“I am still discussing it,” Kim said when asked about her future plans during a postgame interview immediately after the Pink Spiders lost the V League championship on April 6. “The ending was not so great, so I’m not sure about it.”

The Pink Spiders won this season’s regular season title, but failed to win the championship after dropping three straight games to lose the five-game championship series 3-2 to Gimcheon Korea Expressway Hi-Pass.

“I’ve now become a free agent, so I am going to discuss it [with the club] and decide my position,” Kim said during the postgame interview.

Kim, 35, started her career with the Pink Spiders in 2005, but moved overseas to play in Japan, Turkey and China before she earned free agency. She returned to the V League in 2020 for one season, automatically rejoining the Pink Spiders as the Incheon club still held her contract rights in the domestic league.

Kim then jetted off to Shanghai after the 2021 season to join the Shanghai Bright Ubest Women’s Volleyball Club, returning to the team four years after she led it to the top of the Chinese Super League in the 2017-18 season to snap a 17-year drought스포츠토토. The team finished runner-up in the championship that year.

Kim rejoined the Pink Spiders again ahead of the 2022-23 season and significantly contributed to her team’s success as she managed 669 points total with the highest success rate at 45.76 percent in the league.

Throughout her career in Incheon, Kim has won the league four times with the Pink Spiders, in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2023, and the championship three times, in 2006, 2007 and 2009.

Having retired from the Korean national team after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Kim also hinted earlier this year that she might also consider retiring from club volleyball.

“I want to step down when I’m still on top,” Kim said after a game against the Gwangju AI Peppers on Feb. 15.

After narrowly missing the coveted championship, however, she now wants to continue playing.

“I want to play more,” Kim said after receiving the 2022-23 season MVP award on April 10. “I feel positive and I am talking about it with the club.

“I was not crowned as overall champion this year and I am desperate to achieve that. I think my desire for the title has grown because I missed it after winning the league.”

If Kim does decide to keep playing and enter the free agent market, she is unlikely to struggle to find job offers — not only because she is still a prominent player despite her age, but also because her popularity could attract more fans to a team.

Thanks to having Kim in the squad, the Pink Spiders sold out 14 games last season.

The only factor that the clubs would consider is her transfer fee. V League rules stipulate that a team signing an A-class free agent has to pay either her former team double her annual salary and provide one consolation player, or pay triple her annual salary without the consolation player.

Kim earned about 700 million won ($530,000) last season, a significant paycheck in Korean volleyball.

While Kim appears to still be undecided about her next career steps, she is sure she wants to stay in Korea this time.

“Living overseas is tough and I don’t have much time with the fans in Korea,” Kim said on Monday. “I want to finish well in my home country.”The V League free agent market will close on April 22.

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