Ki Sung Yueng faces military service as Celtic reject plea

CELTIC have denied Ki Sung Yueng the opportunity to become exempt from national service by refusing to free him to represent his country at the Asian Games.

The South Korean midfielder is desperate to join his international team-mates after the squad were promised immunity from the mandatory 18-month stint in the military if they could secure victory at the multi-sport event, which is being staged in China.

However, the Parkhead side, hamstrung by injuries to key midfielders, are unwilling to part with the 21-year-old who picked up his award as SPL Young Player of the Month for October yesterday, leaving him concerned that he will be forced to enlist or face never being able to return to his homeland. "Every person in Korea must go to the military. Even football players must do it by the age of 29," he said, although the powers that be occasionally offer individuals a reprieve. "The Asian Games are on just now and if the team win a gold medal they can avoid military service. But because it is not a Fifa competition, Celtic do not have to let me go for the games. I asked if I could go, but Celtic said no as there are a lot of players injured here."

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The South Korean FA say they were initially offered verbal assurances that the 2009 Asian Young Player of the Year would be able to join his national side, but Celtic say that circumstances have rendered that difficult.

Manager Neil Lennon said: "Ki's a very influential and important player for us and he's just broken into the team. It's a great opportunity for him to bed himself down and we don't want to lose him for a considerable amount of time because we already have (Scott] Brown and (Baram] Kayal out."