South Korea Beat Japan to Take Gold at Asian Games

AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi
Japan’s Yuta Matsumura, left, battles for the ball against South Korea’s Park Kyu-Hyun during their men’s soccer gold medal match at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023.

HANGZHOU, China (AP) — South Korea’s men defeated Japan 2-1 to take soccer gold at the Asian Games on Saturday and also collected the much bigger prize of military exemption.

All male gold-medal winners at the Games are, by South Korean law, granted exemptions from the 18 to 21 months of military that all able-bodied men must start by the time they turn 28. Instead, Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Lee Kang-in along with 21 other players in the roster will only be required to do 544 hours of community service.

It is the third successive triumph in the tournament for South Korea after winning gold in 2014 and 2018, when English Premier League star Son Heung-min and Bayern Munich defender Kim Min-jae were triumphant.

The 2018 final saw victory against Japan and revenge looked possible as Kotaro Uchino put the Blues ahead within 90 seconds, shooting high into the net from close range.

Just before the half-hour, Stuttgart midfielder and tournament top scorer Jeong Woo-yeong netted his eighth goal with a powerful header to level the scoreline.

Ten minutes after the restart, a low shot from Cho Young-wook put South Korea ahead. The remaining 35 minutes were comfortable for the victor as it recorded a seventh win out of seven in the tournament, scoring 27 goals and conceding just three.