Park Ji-sung of Queens Park Rangers admitted to being romantically involved with SBS presenter Kim Min-ji (28) on Thursday at a press event held in Suwon World Cup Stadium, shortly before handing out a number of scholarships to students in need by JS Foundation, his charity organization.
Park Ji-sung poses at a press event in the Suwon World Cup Stadium on Thursday.
"My father suggested I meet a woman in the summer in 2011", the 32-year-old said, adding that he was "close friends" with Kim before they started dating this summer.
"I finally asked her out for a proper date last month. Now I feel more excited about going on dates with her than scoring goals". He said Bae Sung-jae, another SBS presenter who hosts a number of sports programs with Kim, initially helped set them up through his acquaintance with Park's father.
The couple's relationship came to light on Wednesday when a local media outlet released photos of the two on an intimate date by the Han River.
Interest in Park's love life, a somewhat under-reported area, was sufficiently high that 200 reporters showed up to cover the event, which was broadcast live on TV. Most of the questions focused on his relationship with Kim, and Park's eyes brightened whenever he spoke of her.
However, he dismissed as groundless rumors that they will tie the knot next month. "Players in Europe must be available for the pre-season from early July, so it wouldn't be possible for us to get married in July -- unless I retire", he said. "Of course, if the relationship keeps going well, I'll consider getting married, especially as I'm now over 30".
But he threw cold water on the prospect of his possible return to the national team ahead of next summer's Brazilian World Cup, which Korea qualified for this week. "I haven't thought about returning to the national team", he said. "I don't plan on coming out of retirement, and whoever asks me that question will get the same answer".
As arguably Korea's most successful footballer, Park joined Manchester United in the English Premier League in 2005 and stayed with the team for seven seasons. After entering the spotlight with Korea's unprecedented romp to the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup, and appearing in the next two quadrennial football showcases, he retired in 2011 after the Asian Cup in Qatar. But his name is always the first to be called whenever Korea's national team hits a slump.
Rumors that he may stage a surprise return surfaced again in recent days after Korea won a berth at its eighth straight World Cup on Tuesday night. But Park stressed that this was never on the cards. "I thought very carefully about my decision before I retired", he said.
As Park's current club QPR was relegated to the second-tier Championship at the end of last season, many believe he will transfer this summer. "I'm open to all possibilities, but I still want to play in Europe", he said, adding that a return to the K-League is not out of the question.