Pyeongchang (South Korea), Feb 26: Seven South Korean athletes who won medals at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics will be eligible for military exemption, officials said here on Monday.
All South Korean men between 18 and 35 years of age are conscripted into the armed forces for about two years, but athletes who earn an Olympic medal or an Asian Games gold medal are effectively exempted from the mandatory service.
The seven athletes are skeleton slider Yun Sung-bin, bobsledder Seo Young-woo, speed skaters Cha Min-kyu, Kim Tae-yun and Chung Jae-won, and short trackers Lim Hyo-jun, and Hwang Dae-heon.
Yun, 23, won the gold medal in skeleton, becoming the first Asian to win an Olympic medal in sliding sports. Seo, 26, was a member of the four-man bobsleigh team that won silver.
Cha, 24, bagged silver in the men’s 500-meter speed skating, while Kim, 23, finished third in the 1,000m. Chung, who took silver in the men’s team pursuit, is still a minor at age 16, but he will be eligible for special exemption when he gets conscripted.
Lim, 21, grabbed gold in the 1,500m and bronze in the 500m short track speed skating. Hwang, 18, was the silver medallist in the 500m.
The seven athletes are not technically “exempt” from the military service, but unlike their peers, they don’t have to stay in barracks or train full time. Instead, they are only required to put in four weeks of basic training.
After their basic training, they’ll become servicemen in arts and sports under the conscription law. Officially, they will be soldiers for two years and 10 months, but they will be free to take part in international competitions and compete for their respective clubs.