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Korean military won't let judoka off the hook

South Korea's Wang Ki-Chun fights with Russia's Mansur Isaev (blue) during their men's -73kg semi-final A judo match at the London 2012 Olym
South Korea's Wang Ki-Chun fights with Russia's Mansur Isaev (blue) during their men's -73kg semi-final A judo match at the London 2012 Olym

By Narae Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - Dirty looks and 'shushing' are the normal penalties for being caught using a cellphone where you shouldn't but Olympic judo silver medalist Wang Ki-chun was busted by South Korean military police and held for eight days during his national service.

Wang, who won silver in the men's under 73kg division at the 2008 Beijing Games, relinquished his cellphone when he entered the Korea Army Training Centre in Nonsan, 180 kilometers south of Seoul, on December 10, according to local media reports.

However, the 25-year-old was then caught using another one two weeks later and faced "punitive measures" at the military correctional facility between December 31 and January 7.

An official at the Ministry of National Defence told Reuters on Monday: "It is rare for us to detect the usage of mobile phones during the four-week training. But as long as Wang re-enlists and finishes the four-week training all over again, he is off the hook."

In South Korea, all able-bodied men are required to serve in the military for about two years.

However, athletes who win medals at the Olympics, or gold medals at the Asian Games, are granted exemptions as long as they complete four weeks of military training and spend 34 months as coaches or athletes in the same sport.

The official said athletes and celebrities were given no preferential treatment during their stints.

"We are just following the instructions that are universally applied to all soldiers," the official added. "We did not and do not give him special treatment just because he is a national team athlete."

Wang is now reported to be at home waiting for his re-enlistment date.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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