Despite advancing to the World Cup round of 16 after 12 years, the regret of the 2022 Qatar tournament was ‘zero Korean referees’. A team of 129 judges (36 referees, 69 assistant referees, 24 video judges) covered the Qatar World Cup. However, Korean referees were not named again following the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the 2018 Russia World Cup.
As a member of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), referees from Japan, China, Iran, Australia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the host country Qatar, were included in the list of main and assistant referees. In particular, Yoshimi Yamashita of Japan was selected as the first female referee in World Cup history, along with Stephanie Frapat of France and Salima Mukansanga of Lewand. On the other hand, Korea has not produced a referee for three consecutive World Cups since Jeong Hae-sang participated in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
But the Women’s World Cup was different. Five Korean referees, the most ever, will compete at the Australia-New Zealand Women’s World Cup in July. The five Korean referees are Oh Hyeon-jeong (35), Kim Yu-jeong (34), and Kim Gyeong-min (43), Lee Seul-gi (43), and Park Mi-suk (40) assistant referees. This is the first time that five Korean referees are participating at the same time in the Women’s World Cup, where the world’s best referees are put in. To date, the most in one tournament is two. In 2003, U.S. World Cup referee Lim Eun-joo and Choi Soo-jin assistant referee, in 2011 Germany World Cup referee Cha Seong-mi and Kim Gyeong-min assistant referee, and in 2019 France World Cup, Kim Gyeong-min and Lee Seul-gi assistant referees were selected.
Referee Oh Hyun-jung, who also appears as a referee in the variety show ‘Goal Strikers’, held the whistle at the 2016 Women’s U-17 World Cup, and Kim Yu-jeong, who was the referee at the Women’s U-20 World Cup held in Costa Rica last year. Both are in the World Cup for the first time.
Assistant referee Kim Gyeong-min, who is also in the K-League 2, will participate in the Women’s World Cup for the fifth time in a row since the 2007 Chinese tournament. Assistant referee Lee Seul-gi, who has been in two consecutive competitions since 2019, is a veteran who has participated in seven FIFA-sponsored competitions. Assistant referee Park Mi-sook, who currently serves as a referee in Australia, is her first World Cup sortie. He is also a referee in Australian men’s professional football. 안전놀이터
In terms of the number of judges by country participating in this World Cup, Korea is tied for second with Canada. The United States has the most with a total of 6, but the number of field referees (main and assistant referees) is the same as Korea, with 5, plus one VAR referee. In Canada, 5 people like us participate, but there are 3 field judges. In addition, 4 players from Australia, the host country, and 3 players from Japan, a powerhouse in women’s soccer, will participate. A total of 107 referees will participate in this World Cup. There are 33 referees, 56 assistant referees and 18 VAR referees.
Attention is focusing on whether the winds of change will lead to the 2026 World Cup in North and Central America, when the number of countries will increase to 48. In the case of men, a project to produce World Cup referees was initiated in 2014. The ‘World Cup Referee Future Trio Project’ and the ‘Special Referee’ system were implemented. However, it did not see the light of day until the Qatar Games. Attention is focusing on whether the Women’s World Cup can be a turning point.