Seonyoung Whang Walnut HS 12th Grade
In South Korea, it is mandatory that all men enlist in the armed service for two years before the age of 28. However, there have been special cases where people find loopholes to avoid this military service, such as a success at a major international competition such as the World Cup, Olympics, and the Asian Games. If they succeed like they did in the 2002 World Cup and 2012 Olympics, they would attend a mandatory 4 week camp and remain in the sport for 3 years instead of enlisting.
South Korea’s star player, Son Heung Min, who is turning 26 on July 8 must win a gold medal at this year’s Asian Games if he wants to earn a special exemption. Kim Hak Beom, the coach of the team for the Asian Games, agreed to pick Son as one of his three over age players because he is “the kind of player that must be taken care of.” He had chances in the past like the 2016 Rio Olympics and this year’s World Cup, but was unsuccessful. If he fails to win a gold medal at the Asian Cup, which will be in Indonesia from August 18 to September 2, he would have to miss two years of soccer at the peak of his career.
Son currently plays for the Tottenham Spurs, and according to coach Mauricio Pochettino, Son “doesn’t get the headlines of Harry Kane and other players”, but is still valued for his skills and humble character. The Spurs are looking to renew a contract with Son, but if he fails to avoid military service, his contract will be affected. They looked to talking about a contract this summer, but because of the circumstances, it is possible for them to delay these talks until after the Asian Games.
Son is hesitant to address this issue as the public has shown their anger and discontent over the rich and famous avoiding this military service. In 2012, Korean soccer player Park Chu Young, was accused of postponing his military service because his lawyers found a loophole. He was forced to apologize after the incident and took a severe blow to his popularity. Son Heung Min expressed his sadness after Korea’s losses in this World Cup, and was even seen crying in front of president Moon Jae In. However, he stated that his emotions had nothing to do with his military service and that the world cup “was a very special stage”, and he cried because he felt like he disappointed his team and fans.
<Seonyoung Whang Walnut HS 12th Grade