(ATTN: UPDATES paras 5, 7 with latest info; ADDS photos)
By Oh Seok-min
SEOUL, May 8 (Yonhap) -- Tottenham Hotspur's South Korean star Son Heung-min completed a three-week military training program with the best performance among all trainees Friday, as he excelled in shooting skills and other areas, officials said.
Son is one of the top five trainees to receive a prize at the camp's graduation ceremony at a Marine Corps unit on the southern island of Jeju on Friday. The exact scores of the trainees were not disclosed, but officials said Son was the top among a total of 157 trainees.
Son entered the camp on April 20 for basic military training required of those entitled to exemption from two years of mandatory military service. Son earned the exemption after winning the men's football gold medal for South Korea at the 2018 Asian Games.
The program included shooting and bayonet skills, chemical, biological and radiological training, individual battle skills and first aid training. In shooting, Son hit 10 out of 10 shots on the target, officials said.
"He received the 'Pilsung' prize which is one of five types of awards for best performers," a Marine Corps officer said. Pilsung, which means "certain victory," is a rallying cry for the Marine Corps as well as the Navy and the Air Force.
"All the courses were judged in a fair and strict manner, and his military training officers have said he went through the training faithfully."
Due to the COVID-19 virus, the completion ceremony was not opened to the public and the media, which was also what Son's side had asked for. The Marine Corps instead uploaded photos of Son on its Facebook page.
The Premier League season has been on hold since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Son returned home later that month to continue his rehab from a forearm injury and to complete his military training.
Able-bodied South Korean men must serve about two years in the armed forces. But Son only needs to complete the basic training and 544 hours of community service over the next 34 months while remaining an active professional athlete.
All South Korean male athletes who win a gold medal at the Asian Games or a medal of any color at the Olympics receive exemptions from conscription.
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