Discover the life journey of Kim Min-Jae through this biography, which sheds light on his childhood, early years, upbringing by his parents, Kim Tae-gyun (Kim’s Dad), Lee Yoo-sun (Kim’s Mum), Family Background, Choi Yoo-ra, his Wife, Kim Kyung-min his Brother, family background, and personal details.
This piece highlights Kim Min-jae’s roots, lifestyle, personal life, and earnings at Napoli. It tells the tale of a South Korean boy born to sports-loving parents who pursued football with passion despite financial struggles.
Kim was known for his feisty nature as a child. He often clashed with older kids and defended his brother from bullies. He even left school to follow his football dreams and draws strength from a motivational tattoo during tough times on the pitch.
We start with Kim’s early years, showcasing his rise in football from a promising youth to achieving professional success. We aim to captivate you with Kim Min-jae’s journey from a determined child to a celebrated football star.
Kim’s transition from a tough kid to a Napoli star defender showcases his journey of hard work and talent. His robust defence and quick moves have made him a key player, earning him the title of a ‘Monster Defender.’
Our research into South Korean footballers revealed a lack of comprehensive stories about Kim Min-Jae. This biography aims to fill that gap, celebrating Kim’s impact on football and his status as a South Korean icon. Let’s explore the story of this exceptional defender from Tongyeong.
Kim Min-Jae’s Early Years:
Known as the ‘Monster Defender’ and ‘Giant Baby,’ Kim Min-Jae entered the world on November 15, 1996. In the same year, Serhou Guirassy was born. His birth took place in Tongyeong, South Korea, to parents Lee Yoo-sun and Kim Tae-gyun. Min-Jae is the younger of two boys in a family where sports was a shared passion.
His mother, Lee Yoo-sun, a year older than his father, Kim Tae-gyun, raised Min-Jae and his brother in an environment filled with athletic spirit.
Kim Min-Jae’s Youthful Years:
Kim Min-jae’s early years in Tongyeong were marked by his father’s recognition of his unique traits. Even as an infant, Min-jae’s ability to grasp firmly hinted at his remarkable stamina. His father, Kim Tae-gyun, often reflected on these early signs of Min-jae’s distinctiveness.
Born in the coastal city of Tongyeong in South Gyeongsang Province, Kim Min-Jae was known from a young age for his carefree spirit and tenacity. His youthful charm and stubborn nature were evident to everyone who knew him during childhood.
His upbringing was a family affair, shared with his older brother, Kim Kyung-min. Unlike Min-Jae, who pursued a career as a defender with Napoli, his brother took to goalkeeping and is currently playing for Myongji University. Together, they were raised under the watchful eyes of their parents, Lee Yoo-sun and Kim Tae-gyun, in a household where Min-jae was the youngest of two boys.
Kim Min-Jae’s Early Tenacity:
From an early age, Kim Min-Jae was known for his fiery spirit and strong will, often landing him in trouble during his school years. His penchant for engaging in scuffles, particularly with older children, was a testament to his fearless nature.
In stark contrast to his elder brother, Kyung-min, who was known for his mild-mannered disposition and reluctance to fight back against bullies, Min-jae was the family’s protector. He often took it upon himself to defend his brother against any form of bullying, embodying a fighting spirit that would later define his approach on the soccer field. Kim Min-Jae, reflecting on those times, shared insights into his protective instincts towards his sibling, saying-
“I heard that my older brother was being picked on. So, I went to see what was happening.
One day, I went to his classroom, which is a grade higher than mine, and saw someone was bothering my older brother.
Then, I stood up to the bully. I tried really hard because it was my older brother.”
Journey into Football:
Kim Min-Jae was known for his strong spirit from a young age, often standing up to older kids. His uncle saw this spirit and suggested football as a good outlet. Kim took this advice to heart, using his boldness in his role as a defender on the field. He became known for his tough approach, treating each game like a challenge to win every tackle.
Kim Min-Jae’s Early Years:
Kim’s parents, both former athletes, passed on their love for sports to him and his brother. Growing up in Tongyeong-si, the brothers started playing football early, with their uncle stepping in to help when their parents were busy.
This teenage uncle, just 14, became a key figure in Kim’s football development, taking him to practice after school and exploring different training centres to find the best coaching.
From ages 7 to 12, Kim’s uncle, who also acted as a coach, guided his training during his elementary school years.
Kim Min-Jae’s Family Background:
He comes from a family of athletes; his dad was into judo, and his mom was a track and field athlete. Kim believes he got his physical strength from his dad and his speed from his mom.
Kim’s parents run a small sashimi restaurant in their hometown. Despite its size, the restaurant’s earnings helped support the family and the boys’ football training. Kim’s drive is fueled by his hardworking parents, inspiring him to succeed in football.
Kim Min-Jae’s Early Career Support:
Kim Min-Jae’s parents often closed their restaurant to watch his weekend football games in Jeonju, making him very happy. They managed their business carefully, informing regular customers of their schedule to keep their commitment to their son and customers.
His dad, once a successful judo athlete, suggested Kim try judo, but Kim initially chose Taekwondo, reaching the yellow belt before focusing on football. Kim’s parents continue to run their sashimi restaurant, a testament to their hard work and dedication to their family.
Kim Min-Jae’s Background:
Kim is proudly South Korean. He was born in Tongyeong, Gyeongnam, often referred to as the ‘Naples of Korea.’ He is known as the “jewel of Tongyeong.”
His family has connections to Jeonju Hanok Village, a popular tourist spot known for its traditional Korean buildings. The village is a favourite family destination, especially during the Chinese New Year celebrations, highlighting their cultural heritage.
Kim Min-Jae is ethnically Korean, like the majority of people in South Korea, a country known for its ethnic homogeneity. His roots are deeply embedded in the Korean Peninsula, reflecting his homeland’s rich culture and history.
Kim Min-Jae’s Schooling:
Kim Min-Jae went to seven schools during his early years. He started at Tongyeong Elementary, then moved to Duryong Elementary, and later to Gaya Elementary School. His journey continued through Haesong Middle School and then to Yeoncho Middle School.
After middle school, Kim joined Suwon Technical High School in 2012 and stayed until 2015. This school is known for producing footballers like Park Ji-sung. Despite his many school changes, Kim wasn’t a top student. He struggled with grades, often getting distracted by his love for football.
Kim’s older brother, Kim Kyung-min, was different. He was quiet and did well in school, unlike Kim, who was more focused on football.
Switching Schools for Football:
Kim often changed schools to find the best football programs. Sometimes, he had to move because a school’s football team was disbanded. Other times, he was scouted by schools promising better football opportunities, like Duryong Elementary.
In high school, Kim became well-known in football circles. He shone in the South Korean National High School Soccer Tournament, even winning an award for his play. Despite being tall and lean, he was a fierce competitor on the pitch, known for his love of the game and fighting spirit.
Kim Min-Jae’s Football Journey:
Starting as the top player at Suwon Technical High School, Kim Min-Jae’s talent shone through, leading to his admission to Yonsei University. There, he quickly became a standout player, making significant contributions to the team’s defence from his first year and earning accolades for his performance.
In his second year, Kim’s prowess in aerial duels made him a formidable opponent, catching the eye of soccer scouts nationwide. However, the growing interest in his transfer potential led to tensions with the university management, who were hesitant about his professional football pursuits. This conflict eventually prompted Kim to leave Yonsei University and join Gyeongju KHNP in the Korea National League, marking the start of his professional career.
Kim’s bold choices shaped his path and inspired his older brother to pursue a career in football, following in Kim’s footsteps.
Rise to Fame:
Kim Min-Jae’s transition to professional football earned him two affectionate nicknames from fans: ‘Monster,’ reflecting his formidable presence on the field, and ‘Giant Baby,’ a nod to his imposing stature coupled with his youthful appearance. While Kim initially found the ‘Giant Baby’ nickname somewhat embarrassing, it underscores the contrast between his physical dominance in play and his gentle off-field persona. Despite his initial reservations, Kim has come to accept the nicknames as part of his football identity.
K League Journey:
On December 22, 2016, Kim Min-Jae joined Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, stepping into K League 1, South Korea’s top football league. Right from the start, his coach, Choi Kang-hee, recognized Kim’s talent, making him a crucial part of the team. Kim quickly made an impact, scoring memorable goals, including a notable mid-range volley.
His remarkable performances led to his selection for the South Korean national team. Despite a challenging injury to his semilunar valve, Kim’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed. He was honoured as the 2017 K League 1 Young Player of the Year and nominated for the K League Best XI, celebrating his contributions to his team’s successes, including a significant title win.
Rise to Fame:
Kim’s prowess in the K League positioned him as a key defender for South Korea in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. However, a fibula injury just before the tournament prevented his participation. Post-World Cup, Kim, fresh from winning back-to-back K League titles, moved to Beijing Sinobo Guoan, where he continued to excel, earning accolades such as the 2019 EAFF Championship and being named in the AFC Asian Cup Tournament.
Transfer Controversy and Interest from Europe:
Kim’s candid criticism of Beijing Guoan’s playing style during a YouTube interview stirred controversy, leading the club to consider his departure. This period saw Kim attracting significant interest from European clubs, including a strong push from Son Heung-min for Tottenham Hotspur to sign him.
Everton, under Carlo Ancelotti, was also keen on acquiring the ‘Monster’ defender. Despite efforts, particularly from Nuno Espírito Santo at Tottenham, a transfer deal didn’t materialize within the window, leaving Son Heung-Min and fans disappointed.
European Career Success:
Following an unsuccessful move to Spurs, Kim Min-Jae signed with Fenerbahçe, joining stars like Mesut Özil and Enner Valencia. From his debut, Kim showcased all the qualities of a modern centre-back, with a playing style reminiscent of Toby Alderweireld. He was adept at driving the ball forward unexpectedly and using his speed for quick defensive recoveries.
At Fenerbahçe, Kim’s defensive prowess shone brightly. He topped the charts for most tackles among the team’s defenders and stood out in the Süper Lig, earning a spot on the CIES and FIFA 22 list of Süper Lig Team 21/22 standouts.
On July 27, 2022, Kim emotionally announced his departure from Fenerbahçe, expressing his gratitude and emphasizing the club’s significance in his career journey.
The monster joined Napoli as a replacement for Kalidou Koulibaly, quickly becoming a key signing alongside players like Tanguy Ndombélé and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. His performance in the Champions League match against Liverpool on September 7, 2022, highlighted his skills, easing Napoli fans’ concerns about Koulibaly’s exit. Kim’s defensive mastery captivated fans despite Piotr Zielinski being named man of the match.
As of this writing, Kim has drawn interest from top clubs like Manchester United, keen on activating his release clause.
2024 FIFA World Cup:
Kim Min-Jae, alongside South Korean stars like Hee-Chan Hwang and Son Heung-min, represented his country in their tenth consecutive FIFA World Cup. Set to play key matches against teams like Ghana, Portugal, and Uruguay, Kim is ready to showcase his defensive talents on the world stage.
Choi Yoo-ra: Kim Min-Jae’s Partner
Kim Min-jae is not just dating; he is married to Choi Yoo-ra. Their wedding took place in South Korea before Kim’s issues with Beijing Guoan. Since their marriage, the couple has kept a low profile, with Kim sharing their first public photo four years into their marriage.
Who is he?
Kim has meaningful tattoos on his left arm. One reads, “Don’t stop dreaming,” and another features a black circle with the phrase “Time does not wait for you.” These tattoos serve as a source of motivation for him, reflecting his Christian faith with a cross tattoo as well.
Kim has matured over the years, moving away from his earlier temperamental nature. He’s learned to channel his physicality in a controlled manner on the field, avoiding unnecessary conflicts. The Scorpio athlete has the same zodiac as Dutch’s Joey Veerman, England’s Tino Livramento, and Wayne Rooney.
Beyond football, Kim enjoys rapping, a hobby from his youth that he continues to indulge in, often singing along to songs while driving.
Kim Min-jae’s life, from his marriage to Choi Yoo-ra to his personal interests and evolving personality, showcases a multifaceted individual who balances his professional career with his passions and personal growth.
Kim Min-Jae’s Lifestyle:
Outside of football, Kim Min-Jae enjoys playing table tennis, showcasing his skills in various videos.
Kim Min-Jae’s Car:
On June 9, 2022, Kim expressed his appreciation for his Cadillac Escalade on social media. He shared with his followers that despite the vehicle’s imposing appearance, it offers a smooth driving experience to those who have had the chance to drive this luxurious SUV.
Kim Min-Jae’s Family Life:
The support of Kim’s family, including his parents and uncle, has been crucial in his journey to becoming a football star.
Kim Min-Jae’s Father:
Kim Tae-gyun, Kim’s father, is a man of diverse skills. He has backgrounds in judo, truck driving, and running a restaurant. One of Kim’s fondest memories with his father involves accompanying him on long truck journeys, especially during the time he received his call-up to the under-17 South Korean national team. Kim’s father takes great pride in his son’s achievements and has three main wishes for him: a stable career, a happy marriage, and a fulfilling life.
Kim Min-Jae’s Mother:
Lee Yoo-sun, Kim’s mother and a former track and field athlete, initially thought her son would be better suited as a striker due to his aggressive play style. However, she later understood and supported his decision to play as a defender. Despite being concerned about Kim’s aggressive nature as a child, she is now proud to see him mature and manage his temperament effectively.
Kim Min-Jae’s Brother:
Kim Kyung-min, unlike his brother Kim Min-Jae, didn’t initially see himself pursuing a career in professional football. Excelling academically and in drawing, Kyung-min considered different paths before focusing on goalkeeping, influenced by his brother’s success in football. Despite a late start in serious goalkeeping training, Kyung-min dedicated himself to the sport, drawing closer to his brother in the process. The two siblings share a deep bond, with no secrets between them.
Kim Min-Jae’s Uncle:
During his middle school years, Kim Min-Jae attended a school where his uncle was the soccer coach and became one of his most influential mentors. Early on, Kim’s strong personality posed challenges for his uncle in terms of discipline. Instead of harsh punishment, his uncle guided him with strict discipline and motivational words.
Hence, it contributed significantly to Kim’s growth as a player and person. This guidance helped Kim evolve, and by the time he made his professional debut with Gyeongju KHNP, he had matured considerably. Thanks in large part to the influence of his uncle and family.
Untold Facts about Kim Min-Jae:
In the concluding part of Kim Min-jae’s story, we’ll uncover additional details about his life that may surprise you. Let’s dive in.
Kim Min-Jae’s Back Tattoo:
Kim Min-Jae has a significant tattoo featuring Jesus Christ with a cross. And it is surrounded by what appears to be angels. This artwork reflects his Christian faith, hinting at the religious influence in his life, possibly from his father.
Salary and Wealth:
Converting Kim Min-Jae’s annual Napoli salary of €3,214,950 to South Korean won results in approximately ₩4,432,065,179. This conversion underscores Kim Min-Jae’s status as a billionaire in South Korean currency terms. The breakdown of his salary reveals the substantial financial success he has achieved through football.
In South Korea, the average yearly income is around 49,048,872 won. To put Kim Min-Jae’s earnings into perspective, an average South Korean would have to work for 90 years to match Kim Min-Jae’s annual Napoli salary. Hence, it highlights the exceptional financial rewards of his successful football career.
Kim Min-Jae FIFA Rating:
At 24, Kim Min-Jae’s FIFA rating stands at 77 overall, with a potential of 83. Despite his dominance in European football by 2022, some believe these ratings undervalue his abilities. Thus, he should rank alongside top defenders like Edmond Tapsoba and Radu Dragusin. His performance in career mode might be worth checking out for players looking for a strong defensive addition.
Kim Min-Jae’s Faith:
Kim Min-Jae is part of the 29% of South Koreans who follow Christianity, specifically Protestant Christianity. This detail aligns with reports from Naver, a major South Korean online platform. Highlighting the presence of around 17,000 Protestant churches across the nation.
Military Service Exemption:
Kim Min-Jae is among the South Korean footballers exempted from compulsory military service. Thanks to his contribution to South Korea’s gold medal victory at the 2018 Asian Games. Instead of the standard two-year service, Kim only had to complete a few weeks of basic training. Which is a common exemption for athletes who achieve significant international success for the country.
Kim Min-jae, known as the ‘Monster Defender’ and ‘Giant Baby’, is a celebrated South Korean defender born in 1996. He is the youngest in his family, raised alongside his older brother, Kim Kyung-min. By their parents, Kim Tae-gyun and Lee Yoo-sun, both former athletes. The family runs a small sashimi restaurant in Tongyeong, South Korea.
Throughout his youth, Kim faced challenges with his temperament, often finding himself in conflicts. His uncle was a significant influence in his early career, who guided him towards channelling his energy into soccer. This led Kim to switch schools multiple times in pursuit of better soccer opportunities.
Kim’s journey to professional soccer saw him attending Yonsei University, which he eventually left to focus on his soccer career. Before moving to Beijing Guoan, he gained experience in South Korea’s local leagues. With teams like Gyeongju KHNP and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.
Despite a failed transfer to Tottenham Hotspur. Kim’s career flourished at Fenerbahçe and later at Napoli, where he established himself as a top defender in Europe. Kim aims to leave a significant mark in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
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For more inspiring stories from South Korean soccer, consider exploring the lives and careers of Jeremie Frimpong and Konrad Laimer. We hope you find these narratives as compelling and enriching.