How Son Heung-min can be exempt from South Korea military service

Son Heung-min Tottenham Hotspur
Jayne Kamin-Oncea
The Spurs international will be required to enrol in the military unless he is able to win the Asian Games with South Korea

There is much more than just a gold medal at stake for Tottenham star Son Heung-min when heads into the Asian Games final against Japan on Saturday. 

The South Korea winger headed into the tournament with the threat of military service looming, but he can avoid that fate and return to Premier League action with Spurs as a national hero if he helps his side to victory. 

As one of three players over the Under-23 age limit, the former Bayer Leverkusen player has taken on a key role at the tournament in Indonesia after an impressive World Cup.

And so, having already represented South Korea in Russia, why has Son had to miss out on the Premier League season to have a chance of avoiding military service? Goal brings you all you need to know.

How can Son be exempt from military service?

The Asian Games began on August 10 and conclude with the final between South Korea and Japan at the Pakansari Stadium in Cibinong on Saturday.

South Korean men are required by law to start participating in military service by the age of 27, typically for a duration of 21 months.

As Son is 26 years old, he would have to enrol in the military within the next year.

However, there are exeptions for athletes who win gold in the Asian Games.or any medals at the Olympics, meaning the Spurs forward would be excused from the service if he were to finish in first place with South Korea during this year's continental tournament. 

Heung-Min Son Tottenham 2018-19

"I should obviously say sorry," Son told Goal. "I'll be away from the team for quite some time, so I want to say sorry to the manager and my team-mates. 

"I'm sure my team-mates will be able to fill the void sufficiently, but I still feel sorry about having to leave the team during the season.

"So it's obviously important for me to prepare myself to sacrifice for the team as soon as I return [from the Asian Games]."

Apart from a 10 minute run out in the opening game against Newcastle, Son has been absent from Tottenham's Premier League campaign so far because of his national team duty.

However, he is just one game away from making the trip back and will avoid a much bigger disruption to his career if he returns with a gold medal around his neck.

He is confident of doing so, however, and is happy to have the support of his Tottenham team-mates heading into the decider.

"Ben Davies (Spurs' left back) constantly told me 'Good luck' before I left for the Asiad. I intend to return to the club with a gold medal," he said.

"We know the final will not be easy. The manager and I keep reminding the team that we have to play in the final as well as we did in our first match.

"I know I have to lead by example. Most of the team are younger than I am, but I am willing to do what it takes for the sake of the team."

Son Heung-Min South Korea Germany World Cup 2018

There are five rounds to the Asian Games, beginning with a group stage and then the knockout phases including the last 16 stage, quarter-finals, semi-finals followed by the gold and bronze medal matches.

This year's edition of the competition has already begun with an eventful start, with the organisers having had to re-do the draw after omitting a couple of teams during the initial draw.

The good news for Son is that South Korea remain in the competition and remain in with a solid chance of winning. 

Having come through a five-team group containing the likes of Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia and Bahrain, they defeated Iran in the last 16 before seeing off Uzbekistan 4-3 in the quarter-finals.

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After beating the Uzbeks, Son and Co. put three past Vietnam in the semi-finals to set up the decisive clash with Japan, who got the better of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

There is a lot riding on the game for both teams, but it is one which could heavily impact Son over the next year.