Son Heung-min is due to complete his mandatory national service following his return to South Korea.
The Tottenham forward return to his native country last week after all sporting activities ceased due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The 27-year-old is currently on lockdown having returned from London in a cruel twist of fate having spent two weeks self-isolating in the English capital after first returning from South Korea following surgery on his broken arm.
As Son recovers from the injury that was meant to keep him out for the remainder of the season, he will also get the opportunity to carry out his mandatory four weeks of military service.
By law, South Koreans are supposed to serve at least 21 months in the military. The law has existed in South Koreaince 1957 and requires males between 18 and 35 to undertake compulsory military service. It is a conscription system seen as crucial to the country’s defence against North Korea
However, Son earned a special exemption following the national side’s victory at the Asian Games in 2018. It Son’s last chance to earn an exemption as had South Korea been defeated by Japan he would have been forced to give up his Premier League career with Spurs and return to his homeland.
It is believed that he hopes to begin his service on April 20, and is reported to be serving in the Military Corps.
Son is not the first South Korean athlete to earn an exemption as 42 athletes have received draft exemptions by winning individual or team gold medals at the games, where South Korea is routinely a top competitor in many sports.
As reported by the New York Times, draft exemptions are highly sought after with over 230,000 young men each year forced to take a break from their studies or careers to complete their mandatory service. However, the need to avoid the draft is very prevalent among elite athletes, particularly football and baseball players on contracts worth multi-millions.
However, not all athletes manage to avoid the draft as shown by UFC featherweight Chang Sung Jung. Also known as The Korean Zombie, he had to put his UFC career on hold, a huge personal blow for the highly-rated MMA star given that his last fight before conscription was a title fight against all-time great Jose Also.