Golfer Bae Sang-moon charged with violating military service law

February 2, 2015
Bae Sang-moon (AP)

Bae Sang-moon (AP)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — PGA Tour golfer Bae Sang-moon has been charged with violating South Korea’s law on military conscription for his failure to return home after his overseas travel permit expired, officials said Monday.

Daegu Nambu Police Station in Daegu, Bae’s hometown some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, said the Daegu regional office of the Military Manpower Administration (MMA) has filed the charge against Bae, whose visa ran out at the end of 2014. He’d been asked to return to South Korea within 30 days of the expiration date.

Under the Military Service Act, men between 25 and 35 who have not yet completed their mandatory service require a special permit to stay overseas.

All able-bodied South Korean men between the ages of 18 and 35 must serve in the military for about two years. The country remains technically at war with North Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

The MMA in December had refused to grant Bae’s request to extend his travel permit and the two-time PGA Tour winner filed an administrative suit Jan. 16 in response. The 28-year-old can stay overseas while the lawsuit is under way.

Bae, who made his PGA Tour debut in 2012, earned his permanent U.S. residency in January 2013. He has insisted that he is trying to merely delay his conscription in order to keep playing on the PGA Tour, rather than to dodge the military service entirely.

Bae captured his second PGA Tour win at the Open in October, and has an exemption to play on the PGA Tour through the 2016-2017 season.

The MMA declined to extend Bae’s visa on the grounds that he’d spent too much time in South Korea over the past year to be considered an overseas resident. Bae, who’d stayed in South Korea for a total of 133 days — not consecutively — to compete at tournaments and to handle administrative work for his graduate school admission, countered that his period of stay was within the legal limit.

The MMA may cancel overseas travel permits and impose military duties on those who have spent a total of six months or more within the past year, or spent three consecutive months within the past year, in South Korea.

Bae is scheduled to compete at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego this week.