The Korea Football Association (KFA) said Wednesday evening that Hong would hold a press conference the following morning at its Seoul headquarters, without specifying what the coach would discuss. The KFA official, requesting anonymity, said Hong will step down from the job.
"Coach Hong has expressed his intention to resign," the official said. "He will talk further about the decision at the press conference (at 10 a.m. Thursday)."
Hong's announcement comes a week after the KFA gave the coach a vote of confidence despite mounting pressure on him. South Korea crashed out of Group H at the World Cup in Brazil with two losses and a draw, for its first winless campaign since 1998.
At a press conference last Thursday, Huh Jung-moo, a vice president of the KFA, offered support for the beleaguered coach, revealing that Hong had offered to quit immediately after the World Cup but the KFA had persuaded him to stay on for the duration of his contract, which runs through the Asian Cup tournament in January.
The KFA's decision to retain Hong, however, did little to assuage the public's anger, as Huh repeatedly sidestepped questions on who will take responsibility for South Korea's early exit from the World Cup if Hong stayed.
Then on Monday, a local media report said Hong, weeks before announcing the national team roster, had visited an expensive neighborhood just south of Seoul on a few occasions, hoping to buy land there, and signed off on his purchase on May 15 during the team's training camp. The report further upset fans who believed Hong should have been concentrating on the national team's World Cup preparation.
The KFA official said the recent report might have been the final blow.
"I understand Hong and his family were quite devastated by criticisms directed at their private lives," the official said.
"Hong told us that he could no longer carry on as the coach."
Hong faced heat for some controversial selections for his 23-man World Cup squad. He chose forward Park Chu-young as his striker, though Park had played sparingly at the club level in England and had battled nagging injuries for most of the year.
Park appeared in two matches and recorded just one shot, and left Brazil as a symbol of all that went wrong for South Korea.
This year's World Cup was essentially the first failure for Hong, who'd so far led a charmed life in football.
Hong competed in four World Cups, from 1990 to 2002, as a defender and was an assistant coach at the 2006 World Cup. He retired with 135 international caps, the most among any South Korean, and captained the 2002 World Cup team that made a historic run to the semifinals on home soil.
As a head coach, he led South Korea to the quarterfinals at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2009, the country's best showing in 18 years. Then in 2012, Hong coached the country to the bronze medal at the London Olympics, South Korea's first-ever Olympic football medal. (Yonhap)