Sungjae Im and Si Woo Kim are representing South Korea at this week’s Olympic Golf competition. These two gentlemen have extra motivation this week besides the corny medal chewing photo opp on the podium.
With a medal win, Im and Kim can avoid obligatory service in the South Korean military.
In short, military service is mandatory for adult South Korean men:
- They have until the age of 28 to enlist
- They must serve at least 18 months
There are exemptions to this rule (hence this article), but they are more rare than Billy Mayfair using a straight back-straight through putting stroke:
- An Olympic Games medal win
- Asian Games gold medal (this is only for amateurs)
- Other high profile events (World Cup soccer, World Baseball Classic)
Even wins of this stature don’t get Im or Kim completely off the hook:
- They’d still be required to complete four weeks of basic training
- They’d be placed in the army reserves in the future after four years of professional playing
There is precedent for South Korean golfers getting exempted:
- K.H. Lee - Asian Games team gold (2010)
- Sung Kang - Asian Games gold (2006)
Other players have simply avoided this service through national (country) association:
- Charlie Wi, Kevin Na both became US citizens at a young age
Sangmoon Bae had this two year interruption at the peak of his golfing prowess:
- Two time PGA tour winner, 2015 Presidents Cup, enlisted in November 2015
- Discharged in 2017, currently struggling on Korn Ferry Tour, ranked 933rd in the world
If all else fails, these professional golfers can channel their inner K-pop boy band BTS who have had their military service deferred.
Although this likely has more to do with the $4.5+ billion in GDP they are responsible for rather than the soul destroying tunes they put out.