SEOUL • Two-time PGA Tour winner Bae Sang Moon is to return to his native South Korea to complete his military-service commitments after losing a legal battle to defer his conscription yesterday.
The 29-year-old, who was granted United States residency in 2013, was charged in February with violating South Korea's military-service regulations after failing to secure an extension to his overseas travel permit.
He was allowed to stay in the US while his lawsuit against that decision was pending. Yesterday, a court in his home city of Daegu backed the Military Manpower Administration (MMA), Yonhap news agency reported.
Bae, who was contesting the MMA's assertion that he had not spent enough time out of South Korea in 2014 to qualify as an overseas resident, said that he would join the army soon.
"I completely respect the court's decision and I humbly accept the judgment by the law," he told Yonhap. "I am sorry to those who have supported me, including all my fans and South Koreans, for causing anxiety."
With the country still technically at war with the North after the 1950-53 Korean War, all South Korean men, aged between 18 and 35, must complete two years of military service.
The court had ruled that his refusal to sign up with the military ran "counter to the principle of fairness" in regard to other conscripts.
Most in the South agree conscription is necessary to deter North Korean aggression. The public backlash towards high-profile figures such as actors, musicians and sportsmen who seek to skip military service can be fierce.
Bae secured his second PGA title at the Frys.com Open in California last October. He has secured exemption for next year after winning US$2,047,187 (S$2.7 million) so far this season.
Bae, who will earn around US$130 a month as a private in the army, took home US$15,209 from his last outing on the PGA Tour after tying for 54th at the Greenbrier Classic this month. REUTERS