Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


The 2-year plan: South Korean soccer player joins Wisconsin

Junior defender Junho Seok has become a mainstay in the Wisconsin back line in 2013.
[Steve Gotter/The Badger Herald] Junior defender Junho Seok has become a mainstay in the Wisconsin back line in 2013.
It’s not every day that a Division I athletic program has a former military member listed on its active roster.

It’s not commonplace for a 27 year old to have two years of eligibility remaining on his NCAA tenure.

It’s not the norm for a South Korean citizen to be playing soccer at the University of Wisconsin.


These may not be things that most people are accustomed to, but those people aren’t JunHo Seok.

Born in Seoul, South Korea on April 2, 1986, JunHo (pronounced “Juno”) spent his childhood playing soccer and practicing martial arts. In fact, by the age of 11, JunHo had already earned his black belt in taekwondo. After quitting taekwondo, JunHo picked up soccer at the age of 12 — only to drop it during high school.

As is required by South Korean law, every male must serve two years in the army. While there, JunHo was assigned to the artillery section of the army.

“The time he spent at the military taught him a lot of things,” senior Toni Ramadani said. “He’s always telling us some cool military stories, and those eye-opening experiences have put him through a lot so an intense soccer match is nothing for him because he’s been through much tougher things before.”

After the army, JunHo worked for Samsung before deciding that he wanted to pursue his education in the United States.

“I came to America to study English,” JunHo said in a phone interview with The Badger Herald. “I didn’t intend to play soccer, but I was asked to try out for the team and I made it and was then given a scholarship.”

JunHo picked Illinois Central College, a junior college hotbed for international athletes including the Badgers’ own redshirt senior Tomislav Zadro. After two seasons at ICC, Zadro and Ramadani, JunHo’s current roommates, convinced the 6-foot defender to take his talents to Madison.

“They told me that Wisconsin was a great place for academics,” JunHo said. “The part about the great soccer program was also [why I decided to come].

“When I visited, I knew that it was the place to be and has been absolutely perfect so far.”

A big selling point for Wisconsin was the fact that he had familiar faces on the team. With Zadro knowing firsthand about the transition between ICC and Wisconsin, JunHo knew that he would always have someone he could talk to. And with Ramadani, who got together with JunHo a few times per week in the off-seasons to play soccer, there was a recognizable face out on the soccer field.

“It took a long time to find out what his status was because of his age,” head coach John Trask said. “But the NCAA came back and said that due to his military service that he’d have two years of eligibility. Being an excellent student I figured he’d graduate in two as well, so we definitely wanted him here.”

The biggest positive about having JunHo around for two years from a roster perspective is that even though the Badgers are losing 13 seniors after this season, they will return three of their four defensive backs in 2014.

Junior AJ Cochran, one of the leaders on the defensive side of the ball, did not know much about JunHo before he arrived on campus.

“I knew that he was older so he was going to bring some maturity to the squad and I knew that he was in the South Korean military so he was going to be a hard worker. Everything has really rung true about him and he’s been a great addition to the team,” Cochran said.

The left-footed left back has adjusted well to life both on and off the field, but there are still some everyday challenges for the junior majoring in international relations.

“My English is still being worked on,” JunHo said. “So sometimes it is very hard to communicate with people. Studying is also very hard because it takes more time for me to read textbooks since they are in English.”

Cochran tried to put himself in JunHo’s shoes and admitted that it would be exceedingly difficult to travel across the world to a country that speaks a different language and try to play soccer, so he said he is doing everything in his power to make the transition easier for JunHo.

“It’s got to be difficult for him,” Cochran said. “We’re just trying our best to make him feel as comfortable as possible, and so far I think he’s adapting well to it. He’s the nicest kid on the team, and having him on the field during intense moments on the field is great because he always has a huge smile on his face, which helps to balance out our team and make us better.”

Soccer has become a comfort for JunHo because no matter what language one speaks, soccer is played the same across the globe — and that is where JunHo has excelled.

“I have been very pleased with JunHo’s progress so far on the field,” Trask said. “His understanding of the rhythm of the game and what he can do from his position is great. I’ve told some of the younger guys on the team that they really have an opportunity here to pick the brain of a mature, skilled player over the next two seasons and I think they’re starting to take advantage of that.”

In the end, all this Badgers team wants is for the black belt-turned military man-turned collegiate soccer player to enjoy his time here in Wisconsin.

“I asked him the other day if he was enjoying it,” Trask said. “He just gave me a big smile and gave me a big nod saying ‘Yes, I really am.’”

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