World Cup-bound footballer Hwang blazes a trail for South Korean mums , Latest Football News - The New Paper

World Cup-bound footballer Hwang blazes a trail for South Korean mums

When defender Hwang Bo Ram plays in France next month, she will become the first mother to play for South Korea at the Women's World Cup, challenging traditional notions of motherhood in her homeland.

In a country where the gender pay gap remains high, and marriage and child-rearing can cripple a woman's career, Hwang is the only married woman in the squad and its oldest member at 31.

It will not be the first time her personal life has made World Cup headlines: husband Lee Du Hee popped the question on the pitch after South Korea drew with Costa Rica in Montreal at the last edition in 2015.

Their daughter Bom was born 14 months ago.

Few expected Hwang to return to the WK League, South Korea's top-tier women's competition, where only one mother - now retired - had played before.

But, after her club Hwacheon KSPO restored her to the side in December, she made her national-team comeback last month. This month, she was named in the World Cup squad.

"Training has been very hard since having a child because I have to set a good example," Hwang said before leaving for pre-tournament camp in Sweden.

"The significance of Hwang being the first mother to compete in the World Cup isn't just limited to South Korea's football history," said Choi Dong Ho, director of the Centre for Sports Culture research group.

"This is such a meaningful achievement for South Korean society as a whole, where many women struggle to return to or find work after having children."


On her doctor's advice, Hwang did not play football during her pregnancy. Five months after giving birth, she started with weights and Pilates, and began training with a high school team three months later.

"It has been a very tough journey for her," Hwang's husband Lee told AFP.

"I burst into tears when I first heard that Bo Ram made to the national team. I knew how hard she worked despite all the challenges.

"I can't describe how much respect I have for my wife."