K League Classic

K League Classic


K-League Classic

Formed: 1983
Number of Teams: 16
Promotion/Relegation: No
Relegation to: N/A
Domestic Cups: K-League Cup; FA Cup
Current Champions: FC Seoul
Most number of Championships: Seongnam Ilhwa (7)


The K-League, the only fully professional league in Korea, was founded in 1983 as the Korean Super League and consisted of just five clubs. The five founding clubs were:

  • Hallelujah FC
  • Yukong Kokkiri (now Jeju United)
  • POSCO Dolphins (now Pohang Steelers)
  • Daewoo Royals (now Busan I’Park)
  • Kookmin Bank

Hallelujah FC would win the first Championship, finishing a solitary point ahead of Daewoo Royals to lift the trophy.

The following year, 1984, would see another three clubs join the league (Hyundai Horang-i, Lucky-Goldstar Hwangso and Hanil Bank) to expand the league to eight teams. Daewoo Royals would make amends for their defeat a year earlier by clinching the Championship over Yukong Kokkiri.

Attrition already started to take its toll in just the third season, with Hallelujah FC dropping out of the league before the start of the season whilst Kookmin Bank would follow suit a year later.

In the lead up to the 2002 FIFA World Cup, co-hosted by Korea and Japan, the Korean Football Association reformed the league in 1998 and re-named the league as the K-League. Starting with just 10 clubs, the league would expand on the back of the FIFA World Cup, growing from 10 to 14 teams between 2002 and 2006.

The “franchise” system of the K-League has seen a number of teams relocate on many occasions, which has made it difficult for fans to create any real emotional attachment to their club. Despite the undoubted passion for football in Korea, the K-League has often struggled for crowds in comparison with the J. League.

Ahead of the 2013 season, and with the introduction of a new second division, the league undertook a re-branding and the top tier was re-named K League Classic, with the new second division taking the name K League.

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