South Korea’s handsome striker Cho Gue-sung has been forced to switch his phone off after attracting over a million new adoring fans at the World Cup.
The 24-year-old, who scored twice in his country’s 3-2 defeat by Ghana earlier this week, is now scoring off the pitch after seeing his follower count on Instagram skyrocket – rising from 20,000 at the outset of the tournament to 1.6m at the time of writing.
And his soaring rise in popularity appears to be down to a video doing the rounds on social media of the photogenic footballer just sitting pretty on the bench.
A brief search for him on social media reveals tens – perhaps hundreds – of fan pages dedicated to the dashing South Korea centre-forward.
South Korea striker Cho Gue-sung has garnered more than a million followers since the World Cup started
The video of the South Korea international sat on the bench for his club side has amassed over seven million views
The overwhelming interest Cho is attracting may come as a bit of a shock to the modest player, who like keeps a low profile in his private life and on social media, with only a few posts visible on his Instagram account while speculation is still abound surrounding his dating interests.
Encouragingly, perhaps, for his many admirers reports that he had begun dating Ji Minju were denied by her modelling agency, LSAC. ‘They are not dating,’ their short statement read. ‘We ask that you refrain from excessive speculation.’
They had previously said they ‘did not know’ whether the two had a love interest.
As reported by The Athletic, a journalist of Cho’s native country revealed that he had to ‘get some rest’ and separate himself from his phone – and thus the thousands of messages he was receiving every hour.
Cho Gue-sung enjoys a private life – both online and offline – with speculation surrounding his dating interests having ramped up in the past week
‘He had to get some rest,’ said Seo Jung-hwan. ‘His phone was going all night. It was keeping him awake. He was trying to concentrate on football and, all the time, the messages were coming.’
The hashtag ChoGuesung on TikTok, an increasingly significant driver of popularity even in the sporting world, has 193m views.
The centre-forward has been one of South Korea’s standout stars at the tournament so far, scoring two goals against Ghana to get his country back level before they conceded a third.
Outstripping national hero Son Heung-min, Cho now appears to be the darling of the South Korean general public.
Cho Gue-sung’s goals against Ghana are the only efforts South Korea have mustered thus far
‘Sisters with one hand on the heart, the 9th of korea: Cho Gue-sung,’ one strong admirer wrote on social media.
Another implored the footballer to marry them. While another captioned a video of the player with ‘the man who made everyone fall in love with himself’.
A seemingly innocuous clip of the forward sat on the bench for his club side, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, has gained over seven million views. The part where the forward rubs his cheek appears to have drawn particular attention.
The Athletic noted the idol status South Korean supporters are known to bestow upon their stars, with the author Devon Rowcliffe referencing the attention paid to 2002 hero Kim Nam-il.
‘South Korean fans have been known to bestow superstar status on their footballers,’ the author of Who Ate All the Squid? Football Adventures in South Korea told the publication.
‘After the mania of the 2002 World Cup, midfielder Kim Nam-il became an overnight sex symbol. Female fans would hold up placards at matches with racy euphemisms, offering marriage proposals or less formal encounters.’
He appears to have outstripped team-mate Son Heung-min as the darling of the South Korean public
In the digital age, Cho seemingly has more opportunities that his predecessors in the national side to potentially monetise and capitalise upon the attention he is being paid.
With the advent of social media, opportunities are now more widespread and Cho is likely to have a number of offers in his post box when he returns home from Qatar – likely soon given the state of South Korea’s place in their group.
They face Portugal today in their final group game as they look to reach the last-16 – but no matter the outcome, one thing is for certain that heart-throb Cho is a new superstar in the making in South Korea.