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Kim Min-jae apologizes to Son Heung-min amid feud rumors

By Song Jung-hyun

Published : April 3, 2023 - 10:16

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Kim Min-jae, who plays as a center-back for South Korea's national team, speaks at a press conference held last Monday in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, ahead of a friendly match against Uruguay. (Yonhap) Kim Min-jae, who plays as a center-back for South Korea's national team, speaks at a press conference held last Monday in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, ahead of a friendly match against Uruguay. (Yonhap)

South Korea’s star defender Kim Min-jae officially apologized Saturday to Son Heung-min, captain of the national football team, amid reports of alleged friction between the two.

“I was entirely wrong about Son. Son always makes such (Instagram) posts after a national football match but I misinterpreted his words (on his Instagram post) and acted irrationally,” Kim announced in a statement through his agency Orangeball, admitting to having "unfollowed" Son on Instagram.

Last Tuesday, in the aftermath of South Korea's 2-1 loss to Uruguay at Seoul World Cup Stadium, Kim revealed in an interview that he was “mentally spent.”

“Right now, I am just exhausted," Kim said. "I want to concentrate on my club (Napoli) rather than the national team."

Kim’s comments were interpreted by many South Korean football fans as expressing his intention to retire from the national team to focus solely on his Italian club, Serie A club Napoli, where he plays center-back.

Kim is seen fiercely marking his opponent in a friendly match against Uruguay last Tuesday. (Yonhap) Kim is seen fiercely marking his opponent in a friendly match against Uruguay last Tuesday. (Yonhap)

Since Kim appeared to be prioritizing his Italian club over the national team, his interview quickly drew heavy criticism from the national football community.

Following criticism, Kim apologized on his official Instagram account.

“My words have been misinterpreted. I have always given hundred percent and felt grateful playing for the national team.”

Shortly after Kim’s post, Son uploaded a post on his Instagram account.

“It is always an honor to play for my home country, wearing the uniform of Korea’s national football team,” Son, who doubles as a forward for Tottenham Hotspur and a captain for the South Korean national team, said. He also apologized for his failure to deliver a win in the match against Uruguay.

Son’s comments were interpreted by many as a passive aggressive blast of Kim's interview. Right after Son's post, Kim unfollowed Son, sparking controversy among the football community.

Kim’s apology on Saturday comes in an attempt to explain his reaction to Son’s post and to bring an end to intensifying reports of an ongoing feud between them.

Kim added in the statement, “I have contacted Son in private and apologized for my actions. I would like to apologize to him again.”

“I was under a lot of pressure to perform well for my national team which led to my inconsiderate comments during the interview after the match,” Kim explained through his agency.

“Playing for the national team is indeed an honor but it also comes with a lot of responsibilities which weighed heavily on me.”

Son Heung-min, the captain of the national team, is seen greeting his fans at the end of the friendly match against Uruguay last Tuesday. (Yonhap) Son Heung-min, the captain of the national team, is seen greeting his fans at the end of the friendly match against Uruguay last Tuesday. (Yonhap)

In the statement, Kim also denied rumors of friction between him and Son during the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

Earlier, KBS reported that Kim had already expressed discomfort playing with a particular player during the last World Cup. This immediately prompted speculation that Kim was referring to Son.

Kim dismissed the report, calling it groundless.

At present, Kim and Son are following each other again on Instagram.