By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Jan. 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's top professional football league on Thursday unveiled the new names for its two divisions for the upcoming season, along with a new logo based on the colors of the country's flag.
Starting this year, the first division will be called the K League Classic, officials said. Previously, the competition had the hyphenated name, the K-League.
The second-tier circuit, which will be introduced for the first time this year, will be simply called the K League.
The new logo is colored in red and blue, the colors of the "taegeuk" emblem at the center of the South Korean national flag. The logo features the alphabet letter "K" painted over a red background and a football on a blue background.
According to officials, the color red represents football fans' passionate support for the league, while the blue color was used to express the K League's status as Asia's top professional football competition.
Officials said these changes are part of the league-wide celebration of its 30th anniversary in 2013.
At the ceremony unveiling the names and the logo, Chung Mong-kyu, the league commissioner, said the name "Classic" was chosen to help portray the K League as a top-quality, exemplary and timeless football competition. The English word is also easy to pronounce for many Korean fans, Chung added.
"We wanted to inherit the tradition and values of professional football in this country, and at the same time, we wanted to convey our willingness to take on new challenges," Chung said. "We thought long and hard over different ideas so that our names and logo will be beloved by many fans of our sport."
In 2012, 16 clubs competed in what was then called the K-League, and two teams were relegated to the second division.
Sangju Sangmu Phoenix, a military club made up of conscripted players, will be forced to play in the lower division next year after failing to meet club licensing requirements laid out by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the continent's football governing body.
Gwangju FC had the worst record among the 15 teams other than Sangju Sangmu.
The second division will include eight clubs.
The 13th and 14th-ranked teams, or the two worst clubs, in the K League Classic in 2013 will be automatically relegated to the second division for 2014. Then the No. 12 team from the first division and the No. 1 seed from the second division will collide in a playoff for a spot in the first division.
That means up to three clubs from the first division can be sent down to the lower tier.
The 2013 season will start in March. Schedules will be finalized at a league board meeting later this month, officials said.
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