29-year old South Korean superstar volleyball player Kim Yeon-koung is heading to China next season, having signed a one-year contract with Shanghai Duohua Life.
While the exact terms of the deal were not disclosed, her agency Inspokorea said that it was “similar to what she made with Fenerbahce” last season. For 2016-2017, her former Turkish side is believed to have paid her in the neighborhood of 1.2 million Euros ($1.35 million USD).
While Kim’s exact contract details have never been confirmed, she is believed to be the highest-paid volleyball player, male or female, in the world.
In her 6th and final season with Fenerbahce, Kim led her club to the 2017 Turkish title, upsetting superpowers VakifBank and Eczacibasi. The title was Fenerbahce’s 2nd in the last 3 seasons.
Kim says that she chose China over other offers because of a “less heavy league schedule and proximity to Korea.”
“I was very happy in Turkey with Fenerbahce thanks to great support from the team and fans,” Kim said. “Now, I would like to experience a new league.”
Kim spent 4 seasons playing in her domestic league for the Cheonan Heungkuk Life Pink Spiders from 2005-2009, beginning when she was just 17 years old. She then spent 2 years in Japan’s V-League with JT Marvelous before joining Fenerbahce. She was named the MVP of the 2011-2012 European Champions League, and of Turkey in 2014-2015 – after leading the league in scoring for the second-straight season.
Her first duties, however, will be with her national team. She will first play in an all-star match between South Korean and Thai players this month, before leading her team into the Asian Championships and World Grand Prix later this summer. South Korea withdrew from the last two World Grand Prixs, and so finds itself in the second tier (group 2) of this year’s event. She was on the team when they won gold at the Asian Games in 2014 and when they too silver at the Asian Championship in 2015.
South Korea is currently tied with Argentina for 100th in the World Rankings, falling a spot in the latest update in spite of a 5th-place finish at the Rio Olympics. That fall is due mostly to their absence from the 2016 Grand Prix and a lingering non-qualification for the 2014 World Championships that will move off their record next year.