PGA Tour pro Bae Sang-moon denied extension, faces conscription

December 29, 2014

Bae Sang-moon (AP)

Bae Sang-moon (AP)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — South Korean PGA Tour golfer Bae Sang-moon faces military conscription in his home country after being denied extension on his overseas travel, his family said Monday.

The news came just under three months after his latest win on the PGA Tour at the Open in which Bae won a little over $1 million.

The 28-year-old golfer’s mother, Si Ok-hee, said the regional office of the Military Manpower Administration (MMA) in Daegu, Bae’s hometown some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Monday refused to extend Bae’s overseas travel permit.

According to Si, the golfer’s travel visa expires at the end of this month. Under South Korean laws, Bae must return to South Korea within 30 days of the visa’s expiration for conscription, or he could face criminal charges.

All able-bodied South Korean men between the ages of 18 and 35 must serve in the armed forces 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.

Also under the conscription laws, men between 25 and 35 who have not yet completed their compulsory service require a special permit to stay overseas.

Bae, who made his PGA Tour debut in 2012, earned his permanent U.S. residency in January 2013. A two-time PGA Tour winner, the golfer told Yonhap News Agency earlier Monday that he wasn’t trying to dodge his conscription but was merely hoping to be granted extension on his stay “within legal boundaries.”

According to the relevant South Korean laws, conscription candidates who have acquired permanent overseas residency and have lived for at least one year in that country may have their overseas travel permit extended for up to three years.

However, the MMA may cancel overseas travel permit 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.

In the past 12 months, Bae spent 133 days in total, but not consecutively, in South Korea to play Korea PGA Tour events and to handle paperwork to enroll at a graduate school.

According to Jipyong, a Seoul-based law firm representing Bae, the golfer’s period of stay in South Korea was within legal limit, but the MMA still considered it long enough so it didn’t regard him as an overseas resident.

“Bae has spent some time in South Korea recently but his occupation as a touring professional golfer must be taken into account,” an official at Jipyong said. “He should still be considered an overseas resident who has spent a year or more in the United States after getting his residency. It’s up to Bae to take legal action as his last resort.”

Bae is currently the highest-ranked South Korean male golfer at No. 84. He appears to be a strong candidate for the national team at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where golf will make a return to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.

South Korean male athletes who win an Olympic medal of any color receive exemption from the military service if they haven’t already fulfilled their duties.