(Updates with court confirmation)
SEOUL, March 3 Pittsburgh Pirate third baseman Kang Jung-ho was handed a suspended prison sentence for drunk driving in his native South Korea on Friday, the Seoul Central District Court confirmed, clearing him to join his team for Spring Training.
Kang, who had two previous convictions for drunk driving, was charged with driving while intoxicated and fleeing the scene of an accident after his car crashed into a guardrail in the Gangnam district of Seoul in the early hours of Dec. 2.
A subsequent test showed the 29-year-old's blood alcohol level to be 0.084 percent, above the 0.05 percent limit beyond which a driver will have their license suspended, police said.
Kang's previous convictions, in August 2009 and May 2011, ensured he had his driving licence revoked under a "three strikes" policy and the Seoul Central District court refused a prosecution request for a summary fine of 15 million won ($13,005.03).
"Kang was fined twice already but drove under the influence again, got into an accident and fled the scene without taking necessary measures," the judge said, according to Yonhap News Agency report.
"I have concluded that fines would no longer function as a deterrent ... since Kang acknowledges his wrongdoing and victims do not want him to be punished, I have suspended the sentence."
Kang's companion on the night, who initially claimed to have been driving the BMW at the time of the accident, was fined 3 million won ($2,601.01) for lying to police.
The Pirates open their 2017 season with three games on the road at the Boston Red Sox from April 3.
Kang played for nine seasons in South Korea before signing for the Pirates in 2015.
($1 = 1,153.4000 won) (Reporting by Jeong-eun Lee, writing by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)