Mainz's Jae-sung Lee had scored 33 goals in Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 by the end of 2023. - © IMAGO/Jan Huebner
Mainz's Jae-sung Lee had scored 33 goals in Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 by the end of 2023. - © IMAGO/Jan Huebner

Jae-sung Lee: who is Mainz's Korean midfield magician?


Jae-sung Lee has been attracting fans from Korea to Mainz for good reason. takes a look at the background of the popular playmaker...

Stats are correct as of 28 December 2023

Jae-sung Lee

Club: Mainz
Age: 31 (born 10 August 1992)
Position: Attacking midfielder
Country: South Korea (77 caps, 9 goals)

Key stats

Currently in his third season with Mainz, Lee has become immensely popular in the city for his intelligent attacking play. The boy from Ulsan rose to prominence during an outstanding four years in the K League for Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Having joined the club owned by the car company as a 21-year-old in 2014, Lee slotted in straight away and helped them to back-to-back league titles.

Watch: Jae-sung Lee scores as Mainz beat Leipzig 2-0 

Even greater things were to follow for the club and Lee - with 17 assists over the year as the side took their second AFC Champions League crown in 2016. Eight goals and ten assists in 18 appearances the following year saw Lee named the K League's Most Valuable Player.  

Holstein Kiel of Bundesliga 2 did a very shrewd bit of business in taking Lee to Germany in July 2018. He wasted no time at all settling into his new country, laying on two assists in his debut as Kiel took a wonderful 3-0 win at Hamburg. Further highlights flowed regularly in his three seasons at the North German outfit - winning Kiel's Goal of the Season award in 2019/20, scoring a penalty in a memorable DFB Cup win over Bayern Munich in 2020/21 and helping the side to a promotion/relegation play-off that season.   

Mainz took note in summer 2021 and Lee made a seamless switch to the top flight. His smart attacking play helped the 05ers to top-half finishes in 2021/22 and 2022/23, with Lee recording an impressive seven goals and four assists while appearing in every match of the latter season.

Jae-sung Lee scored twice as Mainz beat Augsburg 3-1 during their club Carnival celebrations in February. - IMAGO/wolfstone-photo

The likeable footballer and personality has not spent long away from the South Korea squad since making his first appearance for his national team back in March 2015. He has now made a total of 77 appearances for his country, including six at the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Plays a bit like: Heung-min Son

While Lee has greater defensive attributes and operates more centrally than Son, similarities can be drawn to his Korean national team-mate in terms of technical sharpness, passing and comfort on the ball. Son also rose to prominence in Northern Germany at Hamburg before making the switch to Bayer Leverkusen. What Lee lacks in goal threat compared to Son, he makes up for in the all-round midfield play he has regularly received praise for. 

Lee helped Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors win the AFC Champions League in 2016. - imago sportfotodienst

Did you know?

Lee himself has claimed he is not a star in Korea, but that appears to run contrary to the increasing number of flags from his homeland displayed at Mainz home matches - with many fans traveling from Korea specifically to watch their hero play. That is what can happen if you guide your country to the World Cup knockout stages!  

What they're saying

"With his intelligent play, goal threat and battling mentality, he has not only developed into an absolute regular, but also gained a place in the hearts of Mainz fans. Jae-sung is an incredibly likable guy." - Christian Heidel, head of football at Mainz, on Lee's contract extension in June 2023

"He embodies our virtues at Mainz through and through, runs till he drops and is a huge help to the team with his creativity on the pitch. I don't know anyone who doesn't like Jae-sung - he is an extremely decent person." - Bo Svensson, former Mainz coach