Monday, August 22, 2016

Korean conscientious objectors cautiously hopeful about the future


In a historic change from past practice, Korean courts this year are opting to acquit rather than punish young men who refuse to do compulsory military service on the grounds of their religious beliefs.

This year alone, district courts acquitted nine Jehovah's Witnesses of violations of the Military Law. The most recent ruling came one week ago from the Cheongju District Court which stated, "There are many ways to contribute to the nation without violating a person's basic rights such as social service or alternate work. It is unjust to punish military objectors by criminal law without even making efforts to provide alternatives."

"It is unjust to punish military objectors by criminal law without even making efforts to provide alternatives."


Another hopeful sign comes from Kim Jae-hyung, a Supreme Court justice nominee who recently expressed his support for such objectors and alternative ways to serve the country. His confirmation hearing will begin in September, and if confirmed, he is expected to add a different opinion on the 13-justice court.

While the government has claimed that conscientious objectors do not enjoy public support, Amnesty International Korea and Gallup recently conducted a survey in which more than 70 percent of respondents expressed support for conscientious objectors.

Kim Dong-in, another Jehovah's Witness, claimed it's time for the Korean government to take a stance.

"If you look at the world, fewer countries refuse to recognize conscious objectors. It will eventually happen in Korea. It's time for Korea to voluntarily recognize them instead of being coerced to do so under pressure," he said… [Read more] 

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