Korean Football Star Avoids Military Service After Winning Gold at the Asian Games

South Korean football superstar Son Heung-min burst into tears after his country defeated Japan 2-1 in the Asian Games football final.

The victory not only earned South Korea the gold medal in the prestigious multi-sport event, it also earned Heung-min a pass from the mandatory military service, BBC reports.

Son, who also plays as a forward for Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League, made international headlines in June after delivering a memorable goal against Germany in the World Cup.

Son has overtaken Park Ji-Sung as the highest-scoring Asian player in Premier League history since playing for Tottenham, according to ESPN.

The athlete also won the South Korean Footballer of the Year Award three times and Asian Player of the Year twice.

However, despite a stellar performance in the World Cup, the 26-year-old footballer and his teammates faced almost two years of military service had they failed to win over Japan.

South Korea’s constitution prescribes that all young men are required to serve 21 months in the military. Winning a medal in the Olympic Games or capturing the gold medal in the Asian Games, however, allows elite athletes to avoid military service.

In the match against Japan, Lee Seung-woo and Hwang Hee-chan contributed each to put South Korea 2-0 up during the extra time. While Japan’s Ueda Ayase managed to score a point, it was not enough to stop South Korea from taking their fifth title.

At the end of the game, Son is seen in tears, running toward goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo for a victorious embrace.

The Asian Games gold gave Son and the whole South Korea squad an exemption from the military service.

Many view Son’s extreme happiness as the victory has officially ended previous uncertainties surrounding his status with Tottenham which bought him for $28.5 million back in 2015. The team also signed him up for a new five-year contract in July.

While South Korea also took the gold in the 2014 Asian Games by defeating North Korea, Son was unfortunately not part of that team as his former team Bayer Leverkusen did not allow him to participate.

Featured Image via Instagram / hm_son7

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