Can I Avoid Korean Military Service?
So Kwon and Co. try to avoid the long military service
Officially, South Korea has been at war with its northern neighbor for decades. Conscription therefore remains unchanged, even if it is gradually shortened and relaxed bit by bit. For South Korean professional athletes, there is no exception per se, but there are some loopholes that prevent career interruptions. Healthy men have to compete no later than 26 years after the end of their year of birth - actually.
Current example in the Bundesliga: Chang-Hoon Kwon. The 26-year-old from Freiburg has to report to the military by the end of this year, but, according to kicker research, is working together with the SC officials on a way to use his Achilles tendon tear, which he suffered at former club Dijon in May 2018, as a reason for retirement or a delay to assert compulsory service until after the career. Because, according to the understandable argument: Due to the injury, Kwon missed the Asian Games that summer, in which South Korea triumphed.
Jeong and Paik hope for the Olympics
The result: All members of the squad at the time were released from the long 20-month service. So also Tottenham star Heung-Min Son (28), who then completed his short shift, which then only lasted about four weeks, this summer. Also the Leipziger Hee-chan Hwang (24) was part of the contingent at the time and is largely exempt.
Tournaments such as the Asian Games are not so valued by some clubs, they refuse to release them due to the lack of mandatory parking, but deprive themselves of a good option to exempt their players from conscription: see Bayer Leverkusen and Heung-Min Son 2014. That pushes you down the transfer fee that would be achieved in the event of a sale - because South Koreans released from long military service are of course much more valuable on the transfer market.
Kwon's teammate in Freiburg, Woo-Yeong Jeong, at 21 years of age still has some time. Since he is currently on the road with the U-23 national team, an Olympic participation in Tokyo in 2021 should be realistic. There a bronze medal would "already" be enough for an exemption. The attacker from Mainz Dong-Won Ji (29), for example, no longer has to worry about his military service since his bronze medal in London in 2012. The tricky thing is that only Olympic medals or triumphs at the Asian Games are recognized, but successes at FIFA tournaments (World Cup or Asian Cup) generally do not count.
Professional career and military: you can do both at the same time
Even in the second division, people are concerned about how to best reconcile compulsory military service with a professional career. Karlsruhe Kyoung-Rok Choi (25) should be released last December because of his cruciate ligament rupture. Seung-Ho Paik (23) from SV Darmstadt 98, like Jeong, is hoping for the Olympic medal with the U-23 national team in Tokyo. On Saturday he came on in the 1-3 test against the Brazilian selection. Alternatively, he has the option of postponing the service until after his career with a special rule because his long stay in Spain (2011 to 2019) allows him to apply for a settlement permit in another country, which ensures the postponement.
There are two different examples at Holstein Kiel: Jae-Sung Lee (28) won gold at the 2014 Asian Games, his former club colleague Young-Jae Seo (25), on the other hand, left the fjord in the summer. He changed something surprisingly to the Daejeon Hana Citizen in the second South Korean league. According to kicker information, he is aiming for a loan to the military club Sangju Sangmu, where he can do his military service parallel to his professional career. For this, however, Seo must have played in one of the two highest national leagues for six months. A former Bundesliga player also used this opportunity: Seung-Woo Ryu (26), formerly under contract in Leverkusen, Braunschweig and Bielefeld, has just finished his 20 months in Sangju.
From Bum-Kun Cha to Ja-Cheol Koo: Read the latest kicker (Monday edition, also available digitally as an eMagazine) a report on the Kwon case and an overview of how all 18 South Koreans in Bundesliga history have dealt with their conscription.
Paul Bartmuß / Carsten Schröter-Lorenz
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