Famed South Korean Golfer Ordered to Complete Military Service

Bae Sangmoon, 29-year old two-time PGA Tour winner, has been ordered to serve in the South Korean military under Korea’s military conscription laws.

Bae was, recently, granted American residency, however, a court in the South Korean city of Daegu has just determined that he had not stayed overseas a long enough period of time to qualify as an overseas resident, and is, thus, required by South Korean law to serve in the military.

South Korea has universal conscription for men, and many South Koreans resent the fact that wealthy, high-profile, and politically-connected young men are granted exemptions from serving in the military seemingly because of these connections.

While Bae would have been conscripted into the military had he not been a famous golfer, his status as one of South Korea’s “well-off” citizens likely, also, made him a target by the Military Manpower Administration (MMA). His fame, and the high-profile nature of his legal battle, sealed his fate. In Asia, the squeaky wheel, usually, gets the grease.

Immigration issues like these can quickly become complicated. We recall an instance where a Korean American, who had spent his entire life in the United States, registered himself in the family register. While he wasn’t called immediately to serve in the South Korean military, that possibility remained.  The choice registering made the individual to be deemed as a Korean national eligible for conscription.  The individual flagged himself and put himself in a situation whereby the South Korean government, including the MMA, suddenly became aware of his existence. This is, obviously, not a position you want to find yourself in if you don’t want to serve in the Korean military.

Check out more of our posts outlining the hassles of dealing with South Korean immigration issues:

Sean Hayes may be contacted at: SeanHayes@ipglegal.com.

Sean Hayes is co-chair of the Korea Practice Team at IPG Legal. He is the first non-Korean attorney to have worked for the Korean court system (Constitutional Court of Korea) and one of the first non-Koreans to be a regular member of a Korean law faculty.

Sean is ranked, for Korea, as one of only two non-Korean lawyers as a Top Attorney by AsiaLaw. Sean’s profile may be found at: Sean C. Hayes

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