The conviction of Seok Hyun-jun, 32, for violating the military service law has dealt a fatal blow to his career. According to the Korean Football Association (KFA), he cannot register as a player in South Korea during his probationary period, and his passport has been invalidated and he is banned from leaving the country, making it difficult for him to continue playing abroad. His only option is to fulfill his military service obligation.
Seok was sentenced to one day in jail and two years’ probation in August for failing to return home without a valid reason (violation of the Military Service Act). Judge Kim Jae-hak of the Suwon District Court’s Criminal Division 13 ruled, “His crimes are not good, such as living abroad and not returning home without a valid reason even though the period of his overseas stay permit has expired, and strict punishment is inevitable considering the purpose of the current law to ensure a fair military service order.”
He remained in France and did not return home after being notified by the military to return by June 3, 2019. Earlier attempts to extend his stay abroad had been unsuccessful, and he had been granted a temporary permit earlier that year to “organize his household in preparation for enlistment. However, he never returned home after the special permission period ended. He was criminally charged with violating the military service law and placed on the list of those who avoided military service, and around the same time, there was even talk of naturalization in France.
He flew to the Netherlands on a whim and joined Ajax (Netherlands) through a practice match, which was a big betrayal for him as he had received a lot of support from fans. He continued to play overseas for more than 12 years, including five European countries and Saudi Arabia, and even earned a spot on the national team. His determination to survive abroad without returning home eventually led him to violate the military service law.
Only after returning to Korea and being investigated by the police and prosecutors did Seok Hyun-joon say on social media, “There were many things said about me, such as evading military service and naturalization, but there was no such thing. I never had any intention of evading military service. I tried to send a letter of cooperation to terminate my contract, but the club ignored it, so I missed the time when I could return to Korea and go to work,” he explained.
However, the prosecution sought a one-year prison sentence, saying, “He applied for an extension of his stay abroad several times even before he was notified to return home, and only returned home a year after the date he was notified to return home.” The first trial court also found Seok guilty of a series of acts. However, the court took into account the fact that he confessed to the crime, had no criminal history, and pledged to fulfill his military service, and sentenced him to 8 months in prison and 2 years of probation.
The verdict effectively ends the rest of Seok’s career. If he does not appeal within a week, the verdict will be finalized, as the court ruling also makes it difficult for him to register with the KFA. According to Chapter 3, Article 9 (Approval of Player Registration) of the KFA’s Registration Regulations, anyone who is serving a sentence of imprisonment or more, or is on probation, cannot be registered as a professional soccer player. This means that for two years from the time the first instance judgment is finalized, he will not be able to play professionally in Korea.
Furthermore, Seok’s last official appearance was in April last year when he played for Troyes’ second team. He hasn’t played in an official game in over a year, meaning he won’t be able to play for another two years. This is a critical gap in his career.
Furthermore, if the military service is deemed to be a ‘football-related misconduct’, the ban will be extended for another five years. This is because five years must pass before a player can be registered after the probationary period ends. A KFA official said, “On the surface, 안전놀이터 it can be seen that he committed military service irregularities in order to become a soccer player. We have sent a request for cooperation to our advisory lawyers, and we will formally review the matter legally, get a response, and make a conclusion. If this is the case, he will be banned from the KFA for a total of seven years.”
It is also impossible for him to continue his career outside the country. This is because their passports have already been invalidated for violating the Military Service Act, and those who evade military service are banned from leaving the country and restricted from obtaining foreign travel permits and passports. As a result, in some cases, they cannot play in Korea for up to seven years, and the restrictions on leaving the country mean that it is not easy to continue playing overseas.