The Korea Professional Football League (K-League) is South Korea’s only fully professional football league. At the top of the South Korean football league system, it is the country’s highest and most prestigious level of football competition currently contested by 15 clubs.
The K-League was founded in 1983 as the Korean Super League, with five member clubs. The initial five clubs were Hallelujah FC, Yukong Kokkiri, POSCO Dolphins, Daewoo Royals, Kookmin Bank FC. Hallelujah FC won the inaugural title, finishing one point ahead of Daewoo FC to lift the crown.
In 1998, Korea’s football league was reformed and renamed the K-League. Since its creation, the league has expanded from an initial 5 to 15 clubs. Of the 5 inaugural clubs, only Yukong Kokkiri, POSCO Dolphins, and Daewoo Royals remain in the K-League; Kookmin Bank FC dropped out of the league at the end of 1984, and Hallelujah FC followed the season after.
At present the K-League is the only professional league in Korea. It contains fifteen member clubs.
Below the level of the K-League there is the National League, a closed semi-professional/amateur league with fifteen clubs, established in 2003. The third level of football in Korea is the K3 League.
There is, at present, no official system of promotion and relegation between any of the three leagues. However, beginning in 2006, the champions of the National League had been eligible for promotion to the K-League provided they had met certain criteria. Goyang Kookmin Bank and Ulsan Mipo Dockyard, National League champions in 2006 and 2007 respectively, both rejected the opportunity to move up to the K-League. After back-to-back K-League promotion refusals, the National League committee decided to discontinue the conditional promotion system prior to the 2008 season.