Kang’s sentence upheld

SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean court on Thursday upheld a suspended prison sentence for Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang over a drunken driving conviction, a ruling that may complicate his plans to rejoin the National League baseball team this season.

The Seoul Central District Court dismissed Kang’s appeal of a suspended two-year prison sentence over charges of fleeing the scene after crashing a car into the guardrail while driving drunk, a court official said. The court official didn’t want to be named, citing office rules.

Kang had sought to lower the punishment to a fine. His lawyers have called the suspended prison term issued in March as a potential “death sentence” to his career, blaming it for visa issues that have prevented him from rejoining the Pirates. The team weeks later put Kang on the restricted list as visa issues continued to delay him.

“We are aware of the ruling this morning in Jung Ho’s legal proceedings in South Korea, however, it is premature to comment on the impact, if any, it will have on his ability to secure permission to travel to the United States under a work visa. We will continue to work with Jung Ho and his representatives as he works through that process,” Pirates president Frank Coonelly said in a statement released Thursday.

The court said that the suspended prison term was “rational” because there wasn’t much room for leniency — Kang was previously fined on drunk driving-related charges in 2009 and 2011. The court also said it was unclear the United States was refusing to issue a work visa to Kang specifically because of the suspended prison sentence, according to the official.