After a month in the wilderness, current Arsenal and South Korean striker Park Chu-Young fronted up to the South Korean media to answer the dreaded question the Korean football media and fans had been asking.
Why? Why did you delay your mandatory military service for 10 years? Why did you obtain a Monaco residential visa?
That all came to an end on Wednesday when Park along with South Korean Olympic national football team manager Hong Myung-Bo addressed the nation on Park's decision to defer his military service until 2022.
Park deeply apologized to the Korean nation for his decision and said that the only reason why he obtained a Monaco residential visa was to gain knowledge of European football and continue his football career in Europe rather than joining up with Sangju Sangmu Phoenix, a team made up of current Korean football players to play in the K-League while fulfilling their mandatory two-year military service to the Korean army.
Park also went on to state that he never thought of avoiding his mandatory military service citing that he will serve for the Military Manpower Administration when his playing days in Europe were over. He then apologized to the people who are currently serving in the Korean military.
His Olympic national team manager Hong went further saying that he would do Park's mandatory service if Park chose not to do it (Hong was part of the South Korean football team which finished fourth in the 2002 FIFA World Cup and because of the team's success, the whole squad was exempted from doing military service).
As a result of this press conference, Park is now expected to be used as a overage player for the upcoming Olympic football tournament and his spot in the national team may be open once again.
This press conference divided a nation with Park's supporters saying that he should be given a chance once again and that he pledged to do his mandatory service when his playing days were over. On the other hand, Park's critics stated that he should do his military service now and that he shouldn't be able to compete for the national team or the Olympic team because of his media blackout.
Park has had a turbulent football season this year. His former team AS Monaco got relegated from Ligue 1 in France, which left Park opting to find football elsewhere. Just when it seemed like then Ligue 1 winners Lille OSC had managed to sign Park, he flew to London to sign with Arsenal, making him public enemy No. 1 in the French media. Park then managed just six appearances with the Gunners with only one goal scored.
After news broke out that Park obtained Monaco residency, national team manager Choi Kang-Hee questioned Park's motives and left him out of the friendly against Spain and subsequent 2014 World Cup qualifying matches against Qatar and Lebanon.
In all honesty, Park should be given a second chance with the national team. There's the old saying "innocent until proven guilty" and Park has done nothing wrong by extending his European stay.
We also should trust his word when he said that he would go to the military after his footballing career is finished. The one thing that Park could have handled this situation better is by addressing the Korean media as soon as he landed from London and explained his reasons straight up instead of being in obscurity for the past month.
With young South Korean players like current Celtic player Ki Sung-Yueng, FC Augsburg midfielder Koo Ja-Cheol, Hamburg striker Son Heung-Min, and Sunderland striker Ji Dong-Won yet to complete their military service, hopefully the Korean government and the Korean Football Association can negotiate and find a way for Korean footballers to do their military service whilst in their prime.
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