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Son Heung-Min: What is South Korea’s mandatory military service?2 min read

Son Heung-Min

There has always been a concern for the possibility of Tottenham Hotspur forward Heung-Min Son to have to do two years of military service among the club’s fan. The hint of it during the World Cup has heightened that fear. When Son was involved in the match where South Korea lost 1-0 to Sweden in their opening group stage game last Monda,  the ITV commentators mentioned the attacker’s required two-year military service.

However, the South Korean team that reached the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup was given a special grant from the government from military service for their efforts. If Son and his team-mates had pulled off a similar achievement on foreign soil then that might have had happened again. But now that chance appears to be gone, Son’s big chance is only left at the Asian Games in Indonesia in August where they will need to win the tournament.

There has been plenty of confused information put out about Son and the probability of him doing that military service back in his native South Korea. The player himself is hesitant to discuss due to any intricacies that would cause back home due to a huge star seeming as if he was trying to skip his national service. Even requesting delays or finding loopholes is frowned upon like the former Arsenal player Park Chu-Young attained.

There have been several ages given for when the 25-year-old would have to complete that service. South Korean law says it must be done by 28. Delays have been approved in the past in certain exceptional cases but are not well received by the South Korean public. South Korean laws indicate that sportsmen who acquire medals in the Olympic Games or gold medals at the Asian Games are to be handed exclusions from military service, but they still have to do four weeks of primary training.

Concerns have developed in South Korea that Son Heung-min and team-mates will be recruited into the military as “punishment” for not reaching the World Cup Round of 16.

The Petition

A petition has been begun asking for the players to be excused from military service. South Korean fan Kim Chul-Seung told USA Today: “They are punished by being forced to do this. It will hurt the performance of the team in the future.” South Korea had a surprising victory over  Germany in their final game of the tournament but it wasn’t sufficient to take them through to the knockouts.

They were defeated by Sweden in their opening game and Mexico settled their fate. A petition was launched on the official presidential website of Korean leader Moon Jae-In which proposed that the players’ “talent should not be wasted in the military.” South Korean prime minister Lee Nak-Yeon’s only comment was that “really beat our imagination.”

Tottenham are looking to give Son a new agreement this summer but the possibility of those two years of military service, will, of course, play its part. 

Son turns 26 next month so he would have to start those two years before he turns 28. South Korean players often play for military teams during their service so any new contract would surely need to include some kind of break clause. There is always the likelihood that Tottenham could postpone contract discussions until after those Asian Games in August so they have a clear understanding of the years ahead.

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