Why Tottenham’s Son Heung-Min Avoided Mandatory Military Service By Beating Up On Some Kids

Tottenham fans can exhale. There will be no mandatory Son Heung-Min military service. All thanks to the Spurs midfielder beating up on a bunch of kids.

All South Korean men must complete 21 months of military service for the country, a response to the constant threat of the militaristic North Korea. There are only two ways to gain exemptions: win a medal at the Olympics or win gold at the Asian Games.

Son, 26, would be required to enter into military service by the time he turns 28, unless he could gain an exemption.

Unfortunately for him, he chose not to join the South Korean Olympics team that earned bronze in 2012. In 2014, his club, Hamburg, didn’t allow him to leave midseason to play in the Asian Games, which South Korea won. 

That left the 2018 Asian Games as Son’s last real hope of avoiding military service before turning 28 on July 8, 2020. 

But the Asian Games, like the Olympics, are a youth competition, with the majority of squads made up of U-23 players. Also like the Olympics, each side is allowed three overage players. Son was an easy choice to call up to the side.

Even with Son on the team, South Korea didn’t exactly light up the tournament. The Taegeuk Warriors finished second in group play behind Malaysia and needed this winner from Son to beat Kyrgyzstan 1-0 and ensure passage into the knockout rounds.

South Korea topped Iran 2-0 in the Round of 16 before needing extra time to see of Uzbekistan 4-3 in the quarterfinals. Vietnam proved a bit easier in the semifinals, a 3-1 win sending South Korea to the final against Japan.

The Asian Games championship was tense, going into extra time scoreless. Lee Seung-Woo of Italian Serie B side Hellas Verona broke the deadlock in the 93rd minute and Hamburg’s Hwang Hee-Chan made it 2-0 before South Korea held on 2-1. 

And with that, the Son Heung-Min military service was avoided. Tottenham rejoiced.

Of course, plenty of people will wonder why one of the most famous South Koreans in the world had to win a youth competition against a bunch of youngsters in empty stadiums to avoid military service. Son has played in World Cups and the Champions League; he's the highest scoring Asian in the history of the Premier League. Sure he hasn’t won a trophy in those, but he plays for Tottenham, so trophies are pretty much out of the question. 

There’s also the question of whether or not South Korea should even offer exemptions for athletic achievement, discriminating against high achievers in other areas such as science or business. The 2018 Asian Games also has an eSports competition for the first time. Would South Korea offer military exemptions for excellence in video games?

There is also an argument to be made that any sort of mandatory military service is inhumane, that forcing citizens into a world that is based around causing or preventing harm to humans is immoral. 

But none of that matters for Son Heung-Min right now, who will be happy to return to London to play with Tottenham without worry of losing out on 21 months of his soccer life. 

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