Korean Air in the professional volleyball V-League won the 2022-2023 season and achieved three consecutive wins (first place in the regular league and championship match). It is the first time since the past dynasty Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance (2011-2012-2013-2014 season) that the team has won 3 consecutive losses in the V-League. Men’s volleyball is now called the Korean Air Dynasty. When talking about the winning history of the Korean Air Dynasty, Kwak Seung-seok cannot be left out. Outside Heater (OH) Kwak Seung-seok joined Korean Air as the 4th pick in the 1st round of the 2010-2011 rookie draft and is a franchise player who has been active for 13 seasons. He played in all games (30 games) of his first season, and the team reached the top of the regular league for the first time in club history.
However, winning the championship (champion) was always within reach. It was blocked by Samsung Fire & Marine, the strongest at the time, and only finished runner-up for three consecutive seasons from the 2010-2011 season to the 2012-2013 season. For three seasons after that, he did not even make it to the championship game.
In the meantime, Kwak Seung-seok also suffered ups and downs. He was selected for the national team, and underwent ankle surgery and had time to rehabilitate. In particular, in the 2015-2016 season ahead of the first professional free agent (FA) status, the built-in starting position was shaken. As his playing time decreased, he changed his position to a libero, which is dedicated to defense, and even appeared in matches. “It wasn’t very good. But the director told me to do it.”
Because of this, it was the general expectation of the volleyball world that he, who was the biggest free agent, would transfer to another team. But Kwak Seung-seok remained. He wanted to win at Korean Air. “It was my first team, and I struggled so much with my favorite teammates, but I couldn’t win, so I really wanted to win here.”
After that, the heyday of Korean Air began as he wished. During the 7 seasons from the 2016-2017 season, except for the 2019-2020 season, when the championship was not held due to Corona 19, all 6 times went up to the championship game, winning 4 times and winning 3 times.
He was instrumental in these victories. In the 2021-2022 season, it was Kwak Seung-seok who confirmed the championship by blocking Keita’s attack of the ‘Mali Bomber’ in the final match of the 5th set 22-21 of the championship match with KB Insurance, and with Hyundai Capital, who left only one set to win the 2022-2023 season. It was Kwak Seung-seok who brought the atmosphere with blocking and sub-ace in the 5-4 situation in the 5th set of the 4th game of the championship match.
“Four consecutive wins in a row, the goal of all Korean Air employees”
Kwak Seung-seok, who met at the Korean Air Jumbos volleyball team training ground in Yongin, Gyeonggi-do on the 8th, said, “(After three consecutive losses) there is no afterglow after a month.” He wanted to win a combined 4 consecutive wins that no one in the V-League had achieved beyond 3 consecutive losses. “We have to prepare well for the next season. “First” is always important. I want to prepare hard for the goal of winning 4 consecutive games. Isn’t this what all Korean Air employees and the president are aiming for? (Laughs).”
When asked about his overall opinion of last season, he said, “It was much better than expected.” Korean Air achieved the team’s first ‘treble’ by winning the regular league and winning the championship match for three consecutive wins, as well as winning the KOVO Cup before the season. “Actually, I didn’t think much about the KOVO Cup because the players selected for the national team didn’t play, but the other players were really good at it, so I won the treble.”
The love for the team is extraordinary. It was also fortunate for him that he was selected by Korean Air in the rookie draft. Kwak Seung-seok himself and his friends thought he would go to another team, but Korean Air seized the opportunity as the preceding teams nominated other players.
“When I was a college student, I played a lot of practice games with professional teams. When I practiced with Korean Air, the atmosphere of the hyungs seemed really good. So, it was the team I wanted to go to the most. In fact, of course, I knew I would be nominated for another team, and I raised my butt even though I was going to go out in the previous nomination, but it wasn’t. Even the friends next to me were embarrassed. I’m confused too. I think it worked out well after coming to Korean Air.”
Korean Air coach Tommy Tillikainen once evaluated Seung-seok Kwak as “a chameleon-like player.” It means ‘all-around beauty’ and ‘hexagonal player’ who performs well in various roles according to the team’s needs. He is also the manager’s favorite player.
Photo = Reporter Kim Ji-hoon
“Among the directors, I don’t think there was anyone who hated me. Is this an award that coaches like? (Laughs) Since the메이저놀이터 coach has authority, I tend to think that players should adapt to that. It’s really nice as a player to see him look good. Because chameleons can disguise themselves and have a lot of skills. It should be a bigger hexagon.”
As an OH, he is strong not only on offense, but especially on defense. He received defensive awards in the 2011-2012 and 2013-2014 seasons. Since his professional start, it is the only time that a non-libero position, which is a defensive specialist, has been ranked first in defense. Outside of this, he shows a versatile side in many ways, such as attacking and linking heretics.
“I don’t have mourning clothes, but it’s nice to be acknowledged”
Compared to his brilliant winning career, individual awards are rather monotonous. He has won the Defensive Award twice, the Fair Play Award once, and the MVP of the 6th round of the regular league in the 2018-2019 season. When the Korean Volleyball Federation (KOVO) newly established and replaced the record awards, which were divided into scoring, attack, blocking, serve, setter, and defense awards from the 2014-2015 season, with the best 7 awards for each position, “Oh, I can’t get the award anymore. He said he thought.
For this reason, modifiers such as ‘quietly strong’, ‘unsung hero’, ‘housekeeper’ and ‘dazzling supporting actor’ were mainly followed. “There are times when I feel sad, and there are times when I am envious. I don’t think I wore mourning clothes while working out.”
If the game doesn’t work out, ‘I don’t think I can do it today. Kwak Seung-seok, who said he passed it on without hesitation, saying, ‘I’ll do better next time’, also relieves his regret about his personal award in his own way.
“If there is a chance, it’s like a standard record award or the championship MVP. Before the championship game, he said, ‘Let’s do well and get it once’, but it wasn’t easy because there are so many good players. Instead, congratulate me diligently. It’s nice that people who love and know volleyball recognize my role.”
He has two daughters. He is 7 and 5 years old. His daughters are now getting to know volleyball by watching him play. “These days, they say, ‘Don’t miss a serve, do well.’ He’s cute, he’s funny, he’s ridiculous. When he sees him running, he likes it, so he thinks he must do better. He also told me not to fall, but he said, ‘Dad is in a position where you have to fall.’ (Laughs)”
Recently, donations have been gradually increasing. At the end of last year, a total of 50 million won was donated to six schools in Incheon and two schools in Busan. Earlier this year, when thousands of victims were killed by the earthquake in Turkiye, Kim Yeon-kyung (Heungkuk Life Insurance) willingly donated 10 million won to a fundraising campaign with her fans.
She said, “I’m trying to donate as much as I can, but I’ve been thinking about what to do and it’s been very late. This time I got a good opportunity and I did it. Since I’m raising girls, I think I want to donate things like single mothers and hygiene products for teenagers.”
Korean Air departed for Bahrain to participate in the 2023 Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) Men’s Club Championship as a V-League champion. He said, “Personally, I hope to finish well without injury, and hope to pass the group stage by placing in the top 8 among 16 teams.”
When asked what kind of player he would like to be remembered by fans, he said: “I liked the word that he was an indispensable part of the team. He will answer the question of what kind of player he wants to be in the same way.”