South Korean Bae Sang-moon plans to compete on the PGA Tour next week in Hawaii while getting legal advice to help resolve a requirement that he return home by month's end to complete military service, his manager said.
Yonhap news agency reported this week that Bae's mother said the golfer had his overseas travel permit extension request rejected by the Military Manpower Administration.
A two-time winner on the PGA Tour, world number 84 Bae must return to Korea by the end of January or he could risk criminal charges as his current permit expires in the coming days, according to his mother. "(Bae) is seeking legal counsel to work through the military issues in Korea," the 28-year-old golfer's manager said in a statement released on Friday. "He has a valid green card, and Sang-moon intends to stay in the United States as long as it is lawful to do so and play on the PGA Tour this year, beginning with next week's Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Resort on the Hawaiian island of Maui.
All South Korean men between 18 and 35 must complete two years of military service, with the country still technically at war with North Korea after a peace treaty went unsigned following the 1950-53 Korean War.
Sporting success has, though, enabled some athletes to bypass military service with the Korean government waiving the requirement for any athlete who wins Asian Games gold or an Olympic medal.
Bae, who clinched his second PGA Tour victory at the Frys.Com Open in October, is the highest-ranked South Korean golfer and would be expected to compete at the Rio Games in 2016 when the sport makes its return to the Olympics.
A winner of tournaments on the Asian, Japan and OneAsia Tours, Bae made his PGA Tour debut in 2012 and was granted US residency two years ago.