A South Korean footballer has withdrawn from playing on the national team next month after admitting he gave false community service records required for his military service exemption, the Korea Football Association said Sunday. Nearly every able-bodied South Korean man aged 18 to 28 owes 21 months of military service by law, but Olympic medal winners and Asian Games gold medalists are granted special exemption. But they are required to complete basic military training of up to 60 days, as well as 544 hours of sports-related community service.
Defender Jang Hyun-soo avoided conscription after winning gold at the 2014 Asian Games and submitted a document that he had completed nearly 200 hours of community service in December last year.
But it was later discovered that there was heavy snow on the day that Jang claimed to have carried out outdoor football lessons.
In a statement the KFA said that Jang had “stirred up controversy” and would be excluded from two friendlies in Australia next month.
The statement said Jang — who represented South Korea at the 2018 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics — had asked to be excluded from the national team for the matches against Australia and Uzbekistan in November to complete his community service.
“I am very sorry for causing disappointment,” Jang was quoted as saying in the KFA statement.
“I deeply regret what I did,” he said, adding that he will “faithfully” carry out his community service once the season is over.
South Korea has recently hinted at a possible reform of its controversial military service exemption programme, which critics say unfairly rewards athletes and artists for their one-time achievements.
Tottenham Hotspur star footballer Son Heung-min was among dozens of South Koreans who avoided being called for military service by bringing home gold at this year’s Asian Games in Jakarta.
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