Are WBC Warriors Eligible for Military Exemption?
By Kang Seung-woo
As the Korean baseball team has made its advance on the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic (WBC), chatter on military exemption for players has resurfaced.
``The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) plans to push for military exemption if Korea wins the WBC,'' KBO Secretary General Ha Il-sung said in an interview with a local radio program, Thursday.
He added that the governing body would consult with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and the Office of Military Manpower Administration.
After the Korean squad reached the final four at the initial WBC in 2006, the government revised the military service law and 11 players, including Bong Jung-keun, Kim Tae-kyun, Lee Bum-ho and Oh Seung-hwan, skipped duty.
Among the 28 players on the 2009 team, four players _ Choo Shin-soo, Park Ki-hyuk, Im Tae-hoon and Choi Jeong _ have not completed their service.
According to the law as it stands now, an athlete who finishes first at the Asian Games or wins a medal at the Summer and Winter Olympics can skip military service.
KBO President Yoo Young-koo will reportedly have talks with Yu In-chon, minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism and Vice Minister Shin Jae-min over the issue.
``It is not an issue we can handle single-handedly,'' the culture ministry said.
``But if the Ministry of Defense and the Office of Military Manpower Administration request it, we will consider it.''
However, the military body is against awarding the bonus.
``We have not heard from the KBO, and there is no discussion on the exemption here,'' the military office said.
``In addition, the law became extinct in 2007 when the military service law was revised. It makes little sense that the exemption is making headlines just one year after the revision.''
The now non-existent law gave a military skip to athletes who reached the round of 16 at the World Cup and the semifinals of the WBC.
In addition, whether or not the four players who have yet to complete national service deserve the exemption is another issue.
Other than shortstop Park, the rest of them have not put up solid numbers.
Particularly, Choo, who has been limited to four games in the tournament due to the Cleveland Indians meddling in his inclusion on the team, has not lived up to his billing as a U.S. Major Leaguer, going 1-for-9.
Other than the Classic, clinching a gold medal at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou would afford players the service-skip privilege.