Spurs' Son Heung-Min has alternative routes to South Korean military exemption - source

Son Heung-min is determined to win gold for South Korea at the 2018 Asian Games and gain exemption from military service. Allsport Co./Getty Images

South Korea's clash with Japan in Saturday's Asian Games final may not be Son Heung-Min's last hope of avoiding the country's mandatory military service, a Korea Football Association (KFA) source has told ESPN FC.

Tottenham Hotspur forward Son has been released from Premier League duties for the tournament because a gold medal would free members of the South Korea squad from a 21-month spell of military service that must begin when they are 28 or younger.

It means that, if Korea defeat Japan, 26-year-old Son will be able to return to England and continue his Spurs career uninterrupted.

If they do not, however, recent reports have suggested that next year's Asian Cup -- which, unlike the Asian Games, is recognised by FIFA -- could also see Son granted an exemption if South Korea win it for the first time since 1960.

Although a gold medal at the Asian Games and any medal at the Olympics result in exemption, the KFA source told ESPN FC there is no such agreement for football tournaments.

However, the source said it was not impossible that it could happen, with the 2002 World Cup providing a precedent.

That year, South Korea's run to the semifinals was seen as such a special achievement that the players were granted exemption from military service.

It is unlikely that winning the Asian Cup would be seen as special enough but, if there was a clear public majority in favour of exemption, the national assembly could potentially revise the law.

It has also been suggested that Son could be granted a temporary waiver to appear in the 2020 Olympics to be held in Tokyo if South Korea qualify.