By Julian Bovill For Mailonline
It turns out you really can have too much of a good thing – as South Korean striker Cho Gue-sung has found out after being mobbed by online fans fawning over his good looks and goal-scoring talent.
The 24-year-old, who was a relative nobody before scoring twice against Ghana on Monday, has since gone from just 20,000 Instagram followers to 1.6million and has been forced to turn his phone off due to all the attention he has been getting.
The obsession is so great that a clip of Cho just sitting on the bench has racked up more than 7.3million views on social media.
‘He had to get some rest,’ journalist Seo Jung-hwan told fellow reporters today. ‘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.’
It marks a meteoric rise for a man who described himself as ‘insignificant’, with almost no information about his private life having been made public – except for the fact that he already has a girlfriend (sorry ladies, and fellas.)
Cho Gue-sung’s fancam already has over 6M views lol pic.twitter.com/L4B2JI3Te1
Cho Gue-sung, 24 and a striker for South Korea has racked up legions of adoring fans after appearing at the world cup – with this video of him on the sidelines racking up 7million views
Cho describes himself as ‘insignificant’ and was a virtual nobody in sporting terms before the world cup, but has been forced to turn his phone off after being bombarded with messages
Cho plays in South Korea’s top league and was its most-prolific goal-scorer last season, but was virtually unheard of outside the country and has only a minimal presence online
Born in 1998 in the city of Ansan, site Lifestyle Asia reports that both of Cho’s parents are athletes but declines to name them or give any more information.
He picked up football as a boy, playing in the youth academy at FC Anyang where he was a defensive midfielder.
Cho stuck with the position through his time at Gwangju University but was told he wasn’t performing well enough by his coach and moved to striker in 2017.
Two years later he went pro for Anyang, the same team where he played as a youth, and was the third top goal scorer in K League 2 by the end of his first season.
Over the summer, he transferred to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors who play in K League 1, the top tier of Korean football, where he struggled for form.
As is mandatory for all South Koreans, Cho went into the military for mandatory service in 2021 and spent his time there playing for Gimcheon Sangmu – the team of the South Korean Armed Forces.
That seemed to provide the boost Cho needed, and when he re-joined Jeonbuk this year he emerged as K League 1’s top scorer and helped his team win the country’s FA Cup title.
He was first called up to the Korean national team in 2021 and got his first cap playing in a world cup qualifier against Lebanon in September that year.
After a fantastic season with Jeonbuk, Cho was named in the South Korean squad for the world cup and was brought on as a substitute in their game against Ghana.
The 6ft 2ins forward scored two quick-fire headers to bring his team back level from 2-0 down, before South Korean hearts were broken by a Muhammed Kudus strike just seven minutes later.
The hashtag ChoGuesung on TikTok, an increasingly significant driver of popularity even in the sporting world, has 193m views.
Cho now has 1.6million Instagram followers, up from 20,000 before the world cup, including legions of male and female admirers
Little is known about the 24-year-old though it has been confirmed he has a girlfriend – though her identity has not been revealed
Cho has said he has no ambitions to be famous and considers himself ‘insignificant’ but his new admirers beg to disagree with him
Outstripping national hero Son Heung-min, Cho now appears to be the darling of the South Korean general public.
‘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.’
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.
South Korea striker Cho Gue-sung has garnered more than a million followers since the World Cup started
Cho Gue-sung’s goals against Ghana are the only efforts South Korea have mustered thus far
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group