K League 1
K League 1.svg
Organising bodyK League Federation
Founded1983; 39 years ago (1983)
CountrySouth Korea
Number of teams12
Level on pyramid1
Relegation toK League 2
Domestic cup(s)Korean FA Cup
International cup(s)AFC Champions League
Current championsJeonbuk Hyundai Motors
Most championshipsJeonbuk Hyundai Motors (9 titles)
TV partnersJTBC Golf&Sports
IB Sports
Sky Sports (South Korea)
Coupang Play(from 5 May 2022)
Next Level Sports
Current: 2022 K League 1
K League 1
K리그 원
Revised RomanizationK rigeu one
McCune–ReischauerK rigŭ wŏn

The K League 1 (Hangul: K리그1) is the men's top professional football division of the South Korean football league system. The league is contested by twelve clubs.


Main article: K League

The South Korean professional football league was founded in 1983 as the "Korean Super League", with five member clubs. The initial five clubs were Hallelujah FC, Yukong Elephants, Pohang Steelworks, Daewoo Royals, Kookmin Bank. Hallelujah FC won the inaugural title, finishing one point ahead of Daewoo Royals to lift the crown.

The Super League was renamed the "Korean Professional Football League", and introduced the home and away system in 1987. It was once again renamed the "K League" in 1998. It had the current format by abolishing the K League Championship and the Korean League Cup after the 2011 season, and being split into two divisions in 2013. The first division was named the "K League Classic" while the newly created second division was named the "K League Challenge" and both are now part of the K League structure. Since its creation, the league has expanded from an initial 5 to 22 clubs. Of the five inaugural clubs, only Yukong, Pohang and Daewoo still compete in the K League; Kookmin Bank dropped out of the league at the end of 1984, and Hallelujah followed the season after.

On 22 January 2018 the official name was changed to "K League 1".[1]


Main article: South Korean football league system

On 5 October 2011, the league announced a plan to introduce a relegation system from the 2012 season, when two teams were relegated. In 2013, the bottom two teams were directly relegated, while the 12th team played a relegation playoff match against the winner of the newly formed K League Challenge. From the 2013 season, as the number of teams of K League was reduced, only the 12th team is automatically relegated, with the 11th team playing a match against the winner of the K League 2 promotion playoffs.

The league also introduced a split system like the Scottish Premier League in the 2012 season, where each club plays each other three times in the regular round, then the top and bottom six teams are split into Split A and Split B, in which a team plays every other team in the split once, to decide the final standings.

Other information

The K League season typically begins around March and runs to late November each year. The number of games, clubs and the systems used have varied through the years.

A number of the member clubs are owned by South Korean major conglomerates "chaebols". Those clubs have adopted local city names in an effort to integrate themselves more with the local communities. All other teams are owned by local governments.

The K League champions, runners-up, and third-placed team gain entry to the AFC Champions League the following season, with the exception of Sangmu FC due to their unique status as a military team. If the winners of Korean FA Cup cannot qualify for the AFC Champions League or already qualified for it, fourth place also can participate.

In the 2009 season, Gangwon FC joined the K League as its 15th member club. As such, the K League had one or more clubs in every provinces of South Korea. This was the first time in domestic South Korean professional sports history that there has been at least one club in each province.

Current clubs

Club Location Stadium First season Current spell Seasons[a] Last title
Daegu FC Daegu DGB Daegu Bank Park 2003 2017– 17
Gangwon FC Gangwon Chuncheon Songam Stadium 2009 2017– 17
Gimcheon Sangmu Gimcheon Gimcheon Stadium 2021 2022– 0 (debut)
Incheon United Incheon Incheon Football Stadium 2004 2004– 18
Jeju United Jeju-do Jeju World Cup Stadium 1983 2021– 28 1989
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors North Jeolla Jeonju World Cup Stadium 1995 1995– 28 2020
Pohang Steelers Pohang Pohang Steel Yard 1983 1983– 40 2013
Seongnam FC Seongnam Tancheon Stadium 1987 2019– 32 2006
FC Seoul Seoul Seoul World Cup Stadium 1984 1984– 39 2016
Suwon Samsung Bluewings Suwon Suwon World Cup Stadium 1996 1996– 27 2008
Suwon FC Suwon Suwon Stadium 2016 2021– 3
Ulsan Hyundai Ulsan Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium 1984 1984– 39 2005
  1. ^ As of the start of the 2022 season.


See also: List of South Korean football champions

Titles by season

Season Champions Runners-up
1983 Hallelujah FC Daewoo Royals
1984 Daewoo Royals Yukong Elephants
1985 Lucky-Goldstar Hwangso POSCO Atoms
1986 POSCO Atoms Lucky-Goldstar Hwangso
1987 Daewoo Royals POSCO Atoms
1988 POSCO Atoms Hyundai Horang-i
1989 Yukong Elephants Lucky-Goldstar Hwangso
1990 Lucky-Goldstar Hwangso Daewoo Royals
1991 Daewoo Royals Hyundai Horang-i
1992 POSCO Atoms Ilhwa Chunma
1993 Ilhwa Chunma LG Cheetahs
1994 Ilhwa Chunma Yukong Elephants
1995 Ilhwa Chunma Pohang Atoms
1996 Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i Suwon Samsung Bluewings
1997 Busan Daewoo Royals Jeonnam Dragons
1998 Suwon Samsung Bluewings Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i
1999 Suwon Samsung Bluewings Busan Daewoo Royals
2000 Anyang LG Cheetahs Bucheon SK
2001 Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma Anyang LG Cheetahs
2002 Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i
2003 Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i
2004 Suwon Samsung Bluewings Pohang Steelers
2005 Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i Incheon United
2006 Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma Suwon Samsung Bluewings
2007 Pohang Steelers Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma
2008 Suwon Samsung Bluewings FC Seoul
2009 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma
2010 FC Seoul Jeju United
2011 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Ulsan Hyundai
2012 FC Seoul Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
2013 Pohang Steelers Ulsan Hyundai
2014 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Suwon Samsung Bluewings
2015 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Suwon Samsung Bluewings
2016 FC Seoul Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
2017 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Jeju United
2018 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Gyeongnam FC
2019 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Ulsan Hyundai
2020 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Ulsan Hyundai
2021 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Ulsan Hyundai

Titles by club

As of 5 December 2021
Club Champions Runners-up Winning seasons Runners-up seasons
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
2009, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 2012, 2016
Seongnam FC[a]
1993, 1994, 1995, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006 1992, 2007, 2009
FC Seoul[b]
1985, 1990, 2000, 2010, 2012, 2016 1986, 1989, 1993, 2001, 2008
Pohang Steelers[c]
1986, 1988, 1992, 2007, 2013 1985, 1987, 1995, 2004
Suwon Samsung Bluewings
1998, 1999, 2004, 2008 1996, 2006, 2014, 2015
Busan IPark[d]
1984, 1987, 1991, 1997 1983, 1990, 1999
Ulsan Hyundai[e]
1996, 2005 1988, 1991, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2011, 2013, 2019, 2020, 2021
Jeju United[f]
1989 1984, 1994, 2000, 2010, 2017
Hallelujah FC
Jeonnam Dragons
Incheon United
Gyeongnam FC
  1. ^ Including Ilhwa Chunma, and Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma
  2. ^ Including Lucky-Goldstar Hwangso, LG Cheetahs, and Anyang LG Cheetahs
  3. ^ Including POSCO Atoms, and Pohang Atoms
  4. ^ Including Daewoo Royals, and Busan Daewoo Royals
  5. ^ Including Hyundai Horang-i, and Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i
  6. ^ Including Yukong Elephants, and Bucheon SK


South Korea

Broadcaster Summary Ref.
JTBC Golf&Sports Broadcast most matches live. [3]
Sky Sports (South Korea) Broadcast one match live on every Saturday and Sunday respectively.
IB Sports Broadcast one match live on every Saturday.
KBS1 (terrestrial) Broadcast one match on every Sunday from 1:00 a.m.
Coupang Play (5 May 2022~) Broadcast all the matches live on ott. [4]

Outside South Korea

Country/Region Broadcaster Ref.
International OneFootball [5]
 Australia Sports Flick [6]
 Austria Sportdigital [7]
Arena Sport [8]
 Brazil OneFootball [9]
 United Kingdom [10]
BBC SportUK [11]
 Brunei Astro SuperSport [12]
 China PPTV
 Hong Kong TVB
Indian subcontinent
 Israel Charlton
 Netherlands ESPN
 Portugal Canal 11
 United States Next Level Sports

^UK – one opening match only.

See also


  1. ^ "프로축구연맹, 클래식→K리그1, 챌린지→K리그2 대회명 변경" (in Korean). K League Official Website. 22 January 2018.
  2. ^ "The Official K League Annual Report" (in Korean). K League editorial division.
  3. ^ "K League announces domestic broadcasters for season start". SportBusiness Media. 4 May 2020. Retrieved 12 May 2020.
  4. ^ "K리그, 쿠팡플레이서도 생중계된다...포괄적 파트너십 체결(Coupang Play will broadcast K-League on live.)". E-Daily (in Korean). 12 April 2022. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  5. ^ "K League nets free-to-view exposure on OneFootball in five major markets". SportBusiness. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  6. ^ "Korea's K-League to be broadcast in Australia by Sports Flick". Sporting News. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  7. ^ "Sportdigital nets much-needed live content with K League rights | News | Sportcal". www.sportcal.com. Retrieved 12 May 2020.
  8. ^ Daniels, Tom (7 May 2020). "Sportradar delivers the K League to 17 territories". Insider Sport. Retrieved 12 May 2020.
  9. ^ "K League nets free-to-view exposure on OneFootball in five major markets". SportBusiness Media. 6 August 2020. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  10. ^ "🔴 LIVE K League on OneFootball!". Onefootball. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  11. ^ "Football-starved fans feast on BBC's 'surreal' live Korean K-League opener". inews.co.uk. Retrieved 12 May 2020.
  12. ^ "Astro secures K League 1 broadcasting rights | FOOTBALL News | Stadium Astro". Astro. Retrieved 12 May 2020.