Facing conscription after being denied an extension on his overseas stay, PGA Tour golfer Bae Sang-moon has taken legal action to hold off military service, sources close to the South Korean said Thursday.
The sources said the two-time PGA Tour winner filed an administrative suit Jan. 16 through his legal representatives, after the Military Manpower Administration (MMA) refused to extend his overseas travel permit in December.
Bae's permit expired at the end of last year, and he had to return home within 30 days of the expiration date or face criminal charges. However, the 28-year-old can stay overseas while an administrative lawsuit is underway.
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.
Under the conscription laws, men between 25 and 35 who have not yet completed their mandatory service require a special permit to stay overseas.
Bae, who made his PGA Tour debut in 2012, earned his permanent U.S. residency in January 2013. He has insisted that he is trying to merely delay his conscription in order to keep playing on the PGA Tour, rather than to dodge the military service entirely.
One source close to Bae added, "If he wanted to dodge the service, he would simply have applied for his U.S. citizenship without filing for the suit. He's playing well right now, and he's hoping to delay the conscription for the time being."
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.
At 76th, Bae is the highest-ranked South Korean male golfer. He appears to be a strong candidate to make the national team at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where golf will make a return to the Olympics for the first time since 1904. Bae has said his goal is to win an Olympic medal.
South Korean male athletes who win an Olympic medal of any color receive an exemption from the military service if they haven't already fulfilled their duties.
South Korea will host the Presidents Cup this fall between the United States and a team of non-European international players. Bae could be a popular attraction for the fans here and said the Presidents Cup was "a really big tournament this year" for him.
Bae is scheduled to compete at the PGA Tour's Waste Management Phoenix Open this week. (Yonhap)