'I will do my military duty'
By Jung Min-ho
Arsenal forward Park Chu-young broke his silence Wednesday and clarified the position on the controversial delaying of his mandatory military service at a press conference at the Korea Football Association in Seoul. He did not, however, give a specific time frame as to when he would complete his national service.
“Since I started playing in European leagues, I have learned much about advanced football. At that point, I heard from a lawyer that I could delay my military service,” Park said. “But I didn’t do it to dodge my duty.”
After the Premier League season ended in May, the 26-year-old striker was expected to address the media to clarify as to why he had deferred his compulsory military duty until 2022 after receiving a 10-year Monaco residency. But on his return to Korea, Park refused to speak on the issue despite a request by national football team manager Choi Kang-hee for clarification on his stance ahead of picking his squad for Korea’s recent World Cup qualifiers.
“When I came back from England, it was hard for me to hold a media conference promptly since I needed some time to think and organize my thoughts,” Park said. “And I said many times thorough the media that I will fulfill my military duty. Nevertheless, it is my fault, and again, I would like to apologize to all the officers and men who are serving their honorable duty.”
The former national team captain was omitted from the squad for the last two matches. Despite his absence, Korea won landslide victories over Qatar and Lebanon. Nonetheless, it seems plenty of fans want to see Park in the Korea squad, especially after Manchester United’s midfielder Park Ji-sung’s retirement from international football.
However, Olympic football team manager Hong Myung-bo’s appearance at the press conference hinted that Park could join the Under-23s as a wild card pick and possibly be considered for the World Cup squad as well. Amid the mounting controversy surrounding Park, Hong put the forward’s name on the preliminary Olympic roster on May 5, saying “Park’s name has to be included. I haven’t heard his decision yet.” With that said, it is highly likely that Park would join the squad for the London Games. Hong must submit his final roster of 18 for the Olympics to FIFA by July 3.
“I had a heart-to-heart talk with Park after the game against Syria on Thursday. I appreciate that he made a difficult decision,” Hong said.
Park is undergoing personal training in Japan and will join the U-23s for team practice at the beginning of July.