By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Vice Chairman Choe Deuk-ha
Kim Shin-hwan is a player -turned coach training children in East Timor to play football. Since the start of the 21st century, East Timor was the first nation to become independent in May 2002, after it gained liberation from religious and cultural oppressions.
When Kim first arrived in East Timor, he did not have a firm plan for what to do there. Upon arrival, he was welcomed by the then Lt. Col. Choi Chull-whan, the deputy chief of the Civil Military Affairs of the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces Headquarters, posted in East Timor at the time to support the nation’s independence movement.
Lt. Col. Choi was also the captain of a football team of the Korean Military Academy. In 2002, Lt. Col. Choi suggested to Kim, “Please bring together the children neglected by society and train them in football. Let them have dreams and hopes through playing football.”
Later, Lt. Col. Choi introduced Kim to the first president of the newly born independent East Timor, Xanana Gusmao, and proposed to establish a national youth football team. Upon Lt. Col. Choi’s suggestion, the East Timor youth football team was launched in 2002.
Coach Kim is a former player of South Korea’s national football team, Hyundai, as well as other professional football teams. He originally ventured into the sewing business in Indonesia.
However, after experiencing some failures in that industry, he decided to visit East Timor. This was a time when the world was on fire for the Korea-Japan World Cup tournament in 2002.
He met Lt. Col. Choi while he was serving as a United Nations peacekeeper. Lt. Col. Choi urged Kim to head coach the youth football team in East Timor rather than getting involved in the fisheries industry.
When East Timor emerged from a long civil war and became a new and independent nation, the children of this nation ought to now have hopes and dreams of a brighter future.
For this reason, Lt. Col. Choi recommended the forming of an East Timor youth football team that the young people will not fall into decadent culture.
Since then, Lt. Col. Choi continued to support the East Timor youth football team to this day. He and his supporting group PSC (Peace Support Council) have donated uniforms and soccer equipment for the team, and with their support, the team was also able to train in Korea.
Just as expected, Coach Kim Shin-hwan then became a national hero in East Timor by winning against formidable teams like those from Korea and Japan in both the 2003 and 2004 International Youth Football Tournament held in Japan. A film about Coach Kim’s legendary football success was released in 2010. That movie is titled A Barefoot Dream.
Coach Kim came to be seen as the Guus Hiddink of Korea by the East Timor people. The film was selected as the South Korean film entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd Academy Awards and received the Best Film Planning Award at the 47th Daejong Film Awards in Korea.
The film starred two teenage East Timor soccer players, Nidio Ricardo Ferreira Alves and Efrem Marianus Almeida Santos Jeronimo. The film is based on the true story of their lives.
In 2012, they were accepted into a university in Korea to study Physical Education. From March of 2012, they arrived in South Korea to begin their college life at Gunjang College in Gunsan.
The Korean film A Barefoot Dream released in 2010 placed the East Timor Youth Soccer Team into the spotlight.
The film was based on the true story of a soccer player - turned coach, Kim Shin-hwan, who led an amateur team to success at an international soccer tournament in 2004.
Coach Kim originally planned to start a coffee business in East Timor. But after he heard about the boys playing football barefoot from Lt. Col. Choi Chull-whan, he decided to take charge of a football team instead.
Later, Coach Kim established five other youth soccer teams in East Timor with funding and support from the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).
All five teams achieved great success at international youth tournaments. Coach Kim said, “The passion these children have for football, despite their less than fortunate surroundings, is what inspires me to continuously help them to fulfill their dreams”.
In 2010, after A Barefoot Dream was released, Lee Young-pyo, a footballer, contributed to a campaign for funding an East Timor youth football team. Lee donated 10 million won after watching the film at a Seoul theater with the young East Timorese stars of the film, according to the film distributor Showbox.
Korea-East Timor relations:
East Timor is a small island nation located between Bali and Australia, similar in size to the Gangwon Province in Korea.
East Timor had been a colony of Portugal for 450 years and a colony of Indonesia for 24 years. Finally, in 2002, it became an independent.
According to the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Timor island is located approximately 5000km south of Seoul, Korea, with a latitude of 8 to 10 degrees south of the Equator, and the same longitude as South Korea. As a result, it is within the same time zone as South Korea. East Timor occupies the eastern half of the Timor Island: the western half is Indonesian territory. The Timor Sea, while being an abundant fisheries resource, holds military strategic importance. It serves as a route for submarines and military vessels, connecting the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.
South Korea was in full support of East Timor’s efforts to become independent. For four years, from 1999 to 2003, it dispatched its Evergreen Unit as part of the UN Peacekeeping forces.
Since 2001, the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) has been providing Official Development Assistance (ODA), mainly in the areas of health and education, to East Timor. Additionally, through the Employment Permit System, 300 to 400 young Timorese workers work in South Korea every year. (As for late 2017, 2837 Timorese workers have been dispatched to Korea). The salaries earned by these workers from their Korean employers became the cornerstone to economic development in East Timor.
The year 2017 marked the 15th anniversary of East Timor’s independence and its diplomatic tie with South Korea. While it is a brief history to the bilateral relations between South Korea and East Timor, it holds great importance for the nation’s development. In 2011, East Timor applied to be a member of ASEAN.
That process is now reaching its final stages, by which East Timor will be a member nation to ASEAN. It has the potential to become an important political and economic ally to South Korea after becoming an ASEAN member in the future. All Koreans are encouraged to listen to the voices of Korean and Timorese citizens and do their utmost to further develop Korea and East Timor relations.
Korean Coach Kim Shin-hwan:
December 5th, 2017 is a historical day for Coach Kim. It was the day for an emotional event at which the coach of the East Timor Youth Football Team (ages 19-23) was awarded the covetous citation presented by President Moon Jae-in of South Korea.
The Korean ambassador to East Timor on behalf of President Moon, pinned a badge of honor on Coach Kim. After receiving the award, Coach Kim attended a press interview with the Ambassador and the national press. In the interview, the Ambassador said that Coach Kim played a significant role in strengthening the ties between the peoples of the two nations. He then said that football was the most powerful strengthen the ties of the peoples of two nations.
About Coach Kim, the Ambassador said, “Since 2001 until now, it has nearly been 16 years, Coach Kim has not wavered or changed. He never stopped doing his best as the football coach to the East Timor team. For this reason, President Moon Jae-in of South Korea decided to award him with this honor”.
Coach Kim has now become part of East Timor’s football family. At his hands, many became East Timor’s footballers, following the crisis of 1999. Coach Kim led the East Timor youth football team to win the prestigious Revelino Cup twice in Japan. He is known for being passionate at helping East Timor’s youth footballers to compete at international tournaments.