SEOUL, South Korea -- Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang appeared in a South Korean court on Wednesday as judges began hearing arguments in a trial over charges that the baseball star fled the scene after slamming a car into a guardrail while driving under the influence of alcohol.
A friend of Kang also attended the Seoul Central District Court on Wednesday after being charged for falsely telling police that he, not Kang, was driving the vehicle.
It wasn't immediately clear how long the trial will take or when Kang will be able to join the Pirates for the new season.
Prosecutors had sought to fine Kang 15 million won ($13,100) through a summary proceeding, but the court decided to hold a formal trial because it considered the charges against him as serious, said court spokesman Shin Jae-hwan.
The Pirates have yet to decide whether to discipline Kang over the incident, which was the third time he faced drink driving-related charges in South Korea. Kang was also left off South Korea's roster for the World Baseball Classic as the team avoided players with off-field issues.
Kang, 29, is in the third year of a four-year contract he signed with Pittsburgh in 2015 after a stellar 8-year career in South Korean professional baseball.
Kang hit 21 home runs and 62 RBI in 103 games in 2016, but his second season in the majors also included an incident in Chicago in June when a 23-year-old woman alleged she was assaulted by Kang at a hotel. The woman's name has not been released and Kang has not been charged.
According to police in the latest incident, Kang did not stop after driving a rented BMW into a guardrail at around 3 a.m. while returning to his Seoul hotel in December. The crash damaged the guardrail and the car, and Kang's blood alcohol level at the time of the crash would have been 0.084 percent, beyond the country's 0.05 percent legal limit, police said.
Lawyers representing Kang did not return calls for comment.