PGA Tour’s Bae seeks ‘fair treatment’ in conscription row

May 27, 2015
Bae Sang-moon, of South Korea, waves after making a birdie on the ninth hole during the second round of the RBC Heritage golf tournament in Hilton Head Island, S.C., Friday, April 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Bae Sang-moon, of South Korea, waves after making a birdie on the ninth hole during the second round of the RBC Heritage golf tournament in Hilton Head Island, S.C., Friday, April 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

IRVING, Texas, May 26 (Yonhap) — PGA Tour golfer Bae Sang-moon on Tuesday asked for “fair treatment” in the ongoing legal battle with the South Korean government over conscription, saying he hasn’t violated any law.

Bae, 28, was charged in February with violating the country’s Military Service Act for his failure to return home after his overseas travel permit expired at the end of 2014. He’d been asked to return to South Korea within 30 days of the expiration date.

Under the 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 Military Manpower Administration (MMA) in December refused to grant Bae’s request to extend his travel permit and the two-time PGA Tour winner filed an administrative suit on Jan. 16 in response. He’s allowed to stay overseas while the lawsuit is underway.

In Irving, Texas, where he’s competing at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Bae contested that he’s never broken any law.

“Since I earned my U.S. residency in 2013, I’ve been extending my stay with the MMA,” he said after playing the front nine as practice. “I’ve honored the law and haven’t exceeded the legal limit on the length of stay in South Korea.”

The MMA declined to extend Bae’s visa last year because he’d spent too much time in South Korea over the past year to be considered an overseas resident. The MMA claimed Bae spent 133 days — though not consecutively — in South Korea in 2014, while the golfer says he stayed for only about 100 days.

Bae insisted he’s not trying to dodge the military service.

“Now that I am entering my athletic prime, I am asking to postpone my conscription so I can compete on the PGA Tour a while longer,” he added. “I am just asking to be treated the same as other overseas residents and athletes.”

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

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