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South Korea Branch Office of Jehovah's Witnesses

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      The Minister of justice has announced that on Friday, 30 November 2018 all conscientious objectors who have fulfilled at least one third of their 30-month sentence will be placed on probation. Therefore, 57 of the 64 Jehovah's witnesses who are currently in prison must be released. We hope that the other seven brothers will obtain freedom by turning six months in jail.

      This early release has been possible following the historic decision of the supreme court of 1 November 2018 that recognizes the conscientious objection as "justifiable reason" to refuse to perform military service.




    • By The Librarian
      Source
      The Minister of justice has announced that on Friday, 30 November 2018 all conscientious objectors who have fulfilled at least one third of their 30-month sentence will be placed on probation. Therefore, 57 of the 64 Jehovah's witnesses who are currently in prison must be released. We hope that the other seven brothers will obtain freedom by turning six months in jail.

      This early release has been possible following the historic decision of the supreme court of 1 November 2018 that recognizes the conscientious objection as "justifiable reason" to refuse to perform military service.




    • By The Librarian
      Court set to rule on fate of conscientious objectors later this year, as human rights groups call for forms of alternative service 

      This year, South Korea’s Constitutional Court is supposed to rule on the constitutionality of the Military Service Act, which requires the prosecution of conscientious objectors.This is the third time that the court has tried the case. While the court upheld the constitutionality of the law in 2004 and 2011, there are some cautious predictions that things may turn out differently this time. The Hankyoreh met with people who chose to go to prison instead of serving in the military and heard about their past, their present and what they desperately desire for the future.In March, a lawyer went to prison. Every day, he faces a gray wall in a cramped room, about 4.61 square meters in area. The prisoner is Baek Jong-geon, 32, who passed South Korea’s bar exam in 2008, enrolled in the 40th class at the Judicial Research and Training Institute and was on his way to becoming a lawyer. Baek had violated Article 88 of the Military Service Act, which states that individuals who have been instructed to report for military service and refuse to serve without “justifiable grounds” are to be sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison. Baek was the first lawyer to break this law – which is not what you would expect of someone who by profession has to eat, sleep and breathe the law.
      Letters written in prison by lawyer and conscientious objector Baek Jong-geon
      “I still have a vivid memory of what happened,” Baek said, recalling his memories. When a Hankyoreh reporter met him in July, he was sitting on the other side of the glass partition in the visiting room. Baek was four years old when he met his father in the visiting room of the Daegu Prison in 1988. His father, Baek Seung-u, 57, had been court-martialed and imprisoned for insubordination. The elder Baek was a doctor – and a Jehovah’s Witness. 

      Lawyer and conscientious objector Baek Jong-geon enters the courtroom at Seoul Central District Court in Nov. 2011 to hear the verdict in his case. (by Kim Jeong-hyo, staff photographer)
      Baek continued in a steady voice. “I deeply respect the hard work and sacrifices of young people who serve in the military. I want to serve my country as they do, just in a different manner. I fought this for six years in the courts, calling for the introduction of an alternative form of civil service, but I eventually lost, and here I am,” he said. Instead of the word “prison,” the Jehovah’s Witnesses use the word “neutral,” meaning that they are maintaining their military neutrality. Instead of saying that they “go to prison,” they say they “go neutral.” Baek is in prison not so that he can shirk his military service, but rather with the belief that he is staying neutral in military affairs. “The prison guards tell us they know we can’t help being here and that we didn’t commit any crimes,” Baek said. The conscience that put him in prison earns him consideration instead of condemnation. Conscientious objectors are generally given work assignments in the prison where help is needed. They are put in charge of looking after and nursing the elderly and those with dementia and of cleaning the offices used by prison staff. Thus, a sort of alternative service is being practiced inside the prison. Conscientious objectors receive a relatively heavy sentence of 1.5 yearsAccording to the 2015 judicial almanac published by the Supreme Court, 14% of people who are tried each year are sentenced to at least one year in prison, and 6% are sentenced to at least three years in prison (in terms of district court rulings). Conscientious objectors receive a relatively heavy sentence of one year and six months. This one year and six months is the desperate measure that judges take to prevent conscientious objectors from receiving another order to report for duty. A few judges exonerate conscientious objectors on the grounds of the “judge’s conscience.” This year alone, judges issued two not guilty verdicts. These are strictly lower-court rulings that do not follow Supreme Court precedent. A judge at one district court described the situation as follows: “All of us feel uncomfortable with these rulings. The issue could be solved by simply creating an alternative service system, but since there’s no law in place, we have to keep convicting conscientious objectors. Whatever preventive effect the punishment once had has vanished long ago. We keep convicting conscientious objectors, and more keep coming. It’s been the same for decades now. That means that the government should get involved and set up a program.”Some prosecutors apologize to conscientious objectors when bringing charges against them, and some judges even shed tears when reading the sentence. Last year, 493 cases were brought against conscientious objectors; as of August of this year, there were 141. Baek is supposed to be released from prison in September of next year. 

      Lawyer Lim Jae-seong holds a placard calling on the Constitutional Court to make a “just ruling”
      “Peace? Why don’t you keep the peace in your own country!” Lim Jae-seong, 36, a colleague of Baek’s, still recalls the tirade he heard from an official at South Korea’s Military Manpower Administration after he refused to report for duty in 2002. “Do you have any idea that your mother came here in tears and begged us to postpone your enlistment because her innocent boy was going to prison?” the employee asked. At the time, Lim was the student body president at a university in Seoul. Hearing about the innocent people dying in the US invasion of Iraq – including a South Korean, Kim Seon-il – further confirmed his decision to refuse to serve in the military. When he was sentenced to one year and six months in prison, Lim remembers the judge addressing him in the following words: “You argue that your refusal to serve in the military is the way to stop war, but there has never been a time in human history without war. Preparing for war is the way to keep the peace.” After prison, becoming a lawyer to help fellow conscientious objectorsLim went to prison in Jan. 2005. After being released, he graduated from university and became a lawyer at Haemaru Law Firm in Apr. 2015. The man who broke the law has now become a lawyer defending others who intend to defy the Military Service Act. “In my spare time, I represent conscientious objectors on a pro bono basis. The Busan District Court is currently trying Kim Jin-man [29-years-old] for breaking the Military Service Act. Just like me, Kim says that he is refusing to serve in the military because of his beliefs about peace,” Lim said. “I’m not defending him so much as I’m giving him plenty of chances to talk in court. For their entire life, conscientious objectors are pestered about why they refused to serve in the military. Having had the chance to speak his mind in court will provide him some consolation when he goes to prison.” At first, Lim’s mother couldn’t understand why he was refusing to do his military service, and for a while she didn’t visit him in prison. But as she was putting away the tofu that friends had given Lim upon his release from prison (according to a Korean custom), she said, “You didn’t commit a crime, so why should you eat tofu? If the government had made a law, this wouldn’t have happened.” Lim plans to remain involved in the peace movement inside the legal establishment. He believes that that’s the right thing to do for his mother and for his country. 

      Kim Hun-tae, a former teacher at Pyeongtaek Elementary School, and a conscientious objector
      Kim Hun-tae, 37, a former teacher at Pyeongtaek Elementary School, was also a pacifist. Since it was his job as a teacher to impart the importance of peace to his students, Kim was keenly aware of the absurdity of the fact that he had to serve in the military. After weighing over his options, he declared his refusal to perform his military service in Mar. 2006. As a result, he went to prison and lost his teaching job. Kim is still not allowed to return to the podium, and he currently earns his living as a researcher for an educational research institute. “It hurt at first. Teaching is a very important job, and I also had a family to take care of. It also meant I had to say goodbye to the students I loved. I believed that I could teach those kids something important by showing them how I was putting peace into practice,” Kim said. Ten years have already passed since Kim declared he would not do his military service. The students who watched their teacher go to prison are now old enough to do their own military service, and Kim still hears from them. “I tell the kids not to hesitate about going to the army. Going to the army is a belief, too,” he said. Ten years ago, Kim’s students sobbed as they begged him not to go to prison. While Kim was sad about having to leave his students, he points out that this gave him the opportunity to stand tall and tell them to be the master of their own lives. Buddhist’s conscientious objection has big impact on other pacifistsLim Jae-seong and Kim Hun-tae’s decisions to refuse to do their military service for non-religious reasons were greatly influenced by the example of Oh Tae-yang, 41, in 2001. Oh was not a Jehovah’s Witness but a Buddhist. He stirred up controversy when he refused to join the military because of the Buddhist prohibition against taking life and because of his commitment to pacifism. Since being released from prison, he has been working as an activist at pacifist organizations. “My beliefs haven’t changed over the past 15 years,” said Oh in a telephone interview with the Hankyoreh on Oct. 6. “Some people ask me if I regret going to prison as a conscientious objector. The thing is, I don’t ask people who choose a career in the military if they’ve ever regretted their choice. They’re acting on their beliefs.”“Here’s what I’ve learned since refusing to serve in the military. People who think that we need an army are just as concerned about their country as I am; the only difference is how we show it.” While Article 88 of the Military Service Act does say that there are “justifiable grounds” for not serving in the military, the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court have consistently ruled since 2004 that the freedom of conscience is not one of these grounds. But there is considerable basis for the view that the government is violating the Korean Constitution when it continues to prosecute conscientious objectors without offering them another option, such as creating an alternative service system. Article 37, Paragraph 2, of the Korean Constitution states that “the freedoms and rights of citizens may be restricted by Act” for reasons of national security but that “no essential aspect of the freedom or right shall be violated.” Increasing international pressure and interest on forthcoming ruling

      TV personality Yang Ji-woon and his third son Won-seok, who will go to prison for conscientious objection
      There is also increasing pressure from the UN. In Oct. 2015, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) recommended that the South Korean government immediately release all conscientious objectors who are serving prison sentences. This recommendation was seen as particularly forceful since it went beyond suggesting an alternative service system and explicitly called for the release of prisoners. According to a report published by the UNHRC in 2013, 723 conscientious objectors were imprisoned in countries around the world at the time, and 92.5% of them were South Koreans. During an interview with the Hankyoreh on Sep. 20, well-known TV personality Yang Ji-woon, 68, and his wife Yun Sook-gyeong, 60, expressed their concern that their third son, Won-seok, 25, might have to join the 92.5% of imprisoned conscientious objectors worldwide who are in South Korea. The couple have already watched their first and second sons go to prison. Yang and his family are all Jehovah’s Witnesses. On Apr. 21, a district court found Won-seok guilty of violating the Military Service Act, and he is currently waiting for his appeal. “I watched as my two older brothers [aged 36 and 26] went to prison. I figured that I would probably go to prison myself one of these days. According to the conscience I learned through the scriptures, I am opposed to serving for any army that prepares for war,” Won-seok said. Beside Won-seok was his mother, Yun, who burst out crying as she listened to him speak. “I would rather go to prison [instead of my son]. You just can’t imagine what it feels like for parents to send all three of their boys to prison. For the past 16 years [since May 2000, when my oldest son went to prison], I’ve had constant nightmares. Every day I see my three boys being dragged away with irons on their legs. I told my son he ought to apply for asylum instead, but he insists on going to prison,” Yun said. “I can’t just leave the country because it would be easier for me. I have to play some part so that the next generation doesn’t have to suffer, too,” Won-seok said as he comforted his mother. “I’m not asking for my son to be excused from his military service; I’m asking for them to come up with some way for him to serve his country for a long time. Isn’t it about time for something like that? There’s a saying that even the law can cry,” said Yang, her forehead scored with wrinkles. The Constitutional Court is planning to make a ruling about the constitutionality of Article 88 of the Military Service Act (the section that calls for the prosecution of conscientious objectors) as early as the end of the year.
      By Heo Jae-hyun, staff reporter
      http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/765867.html
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Two South Korean men who refused to do military service have had their convictions overturned in a landmark ruling against the government.
      Cho Rak Hoon and Kim Hyung Geun were freed by an appeals court in the southern city of Gwangju today. They had been sentenced to 18 months in prison for refusing military service at their trials, in June 2015 and May 2016 respectively, according to Amnesty International.
       
      http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/appeal-court-frees-jehovahs-witnesses-who-refused-to-serve-in-south-korean-military-p0x3gvdcn
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      A South Korean court has ruled in favor of a man who refused to take part in the country's mandatory military service on religious grounds.

      The Gwangju District Court on Tuesday dismissed an appeal by prosecutors, upholding a previous ruling that found the man not guilty.

      It also acquitted two other so-called "conscientious objectors" who had been sentenced to one-and-a-half years in prison.

      All three of the men are Jehovah's Witnesses, who say they are prohibited by their faith from entering the military.

      The court said the men's refusal of mandatory military service was consistent with their religious faith and conscience, considering how they were brought up. 

      It cited an international trend of recognizing conscientious objectors, and pointed to a growing consensus that some kind of alternative military service is needed in such cases.

      The Defense Ministry urged the court to use caution and prudence, as cases like this may affect national security, cause a decrease of morale for active-duty servicemen, and enable others to evade military service.
      http://world.kbs.co.kr/english/news/news_Po_detail.htm?lang=e&id=Po&No=122586&current_page=2
    • By The Librarian
      Recent photos from South Korea
       







    • By Kurt
      Alternative nonmilitary community service is better than prison, economically, as real benefits accrue from those who refuse to go to war.

      South Korea’s Unjust Treatment of Dong-hyuk Shin. Photo: Courtesy of jw.org, used with permission.
       
      Since 1953 the Republic of South Korea—one of Asia’s most advanced democracies—has severely punished #conscientious objectors. In 64 years, more than 19,000 young male Jehovah’s Witnesses there have served prison terms totaling more than 36,300 years of accumulated confinement. Presently 393 are serving sentence, typically 18 months to two years. “The New York Times” says 600-700 go to prison annually and comprise more than 90 percent of imprisoned conscientious objectors worldwide. This policy needlessly harms society in general, not just conscientious objectors:
      Society foots incarceration costs for prisoner upkeep.
      It loses the valuable alternative work these prisoners could perform as community service.
      The national economy loses millions of tax dollar revenues that these healthy young men cannot contribute by holding gainful employment.
      Then there’s the incalculable emotional devastation to each prisoner’s family.
       
      The struggle to recognize conscientious objection
      At a rare juncture in South Korea’s history, according to “The Korea Herald,” both its Supreme Court and its Constitutional Court are dealing simultaneously with conscientious objection.
      Various lower-court guilty verdicts have risen through the appellate levels for final judgment. Under scrutiny is whether conscientious objectors should be criminally punished by imprisonment for their stance of strict neutrality. South Korea’s Constitution is also under the microscope, due to pressure by numerous international entities, including the United Nations, which has urged South Korea’s government to adopt legislation that allows for alternative nonmilitary community service.
       
      The conscientious objector’s view
      To the conscientious objector, #murder is murder. They hate it. Being ordered to murder doesn’t make them hate it any less. Yet theirs is more than a question of personal taste. They believe that no one—not even a high-ranking official barking orders—can give them, or anyone, the right to take another human’s life.
      Many believe a Supreme Authority condemns such permission-giving, even in times of war. And we need to keep that view in mind when figuring out what to do about and how to treat those who will not—for moral reasons that form the core of their very being—commit murder.
       
      Far from cowardly
      It’s easy to think of conscientious objectors as cowards who shirk their patriotic duty and flee from danger. But that’s not the case at all. Conscientious objectors face their responsibility; they don’t dodge it. When the Law issues an order, they obey it. If they can’t, they confront the Law through the proper channels, seeking recourse that allows them to discharge their duty without murdering. When their only options are—in their view—to murder or to disobey the law, they do what they are convinced is the morally right thing to do, knowing full well the grave consequences they will face: loss of liberty, sometimes loss of life. That takes considerable courage. Only the brave retain their dignity. Cowards have none to start with and thus none to lose upon fleeing.
      Repeated punishment
      Particularly egregious is South Korea’s treatment of Dong-hyuk Shin, who successfully completed military service in 2005 with honorable discharge. That automatically enrolled him in the reserve forces. After studying the Bible, his conscience moved him to change his position regarding military training and service. When summoned in 2006 for reserve forces training, he did not flee. Instead, he informed officials of his new status as a conscientious objector and one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Military officials ignored his objection—to them, it simply did not exist.
      Enough is enough
      Altogether, from March 2006 to December 2013, the military summoned Mr. Shin 118 times for reservist training. He has been prosecuted and convicted 49 times, has made trial and appellate court appearances 69 times and has received 35 court verdicts. The Court certainly could better spend its time and resources pursuing true criminals and leave Mr. Shin alone. Courts have fined him more than U.S. $13,300. Six times he has been sentenced to prison terms of six months or longer, later replaced by conditional sentences, including 200 hours of community service. Due to all the court appearances, he has had to change employment seven times. The stress has taken a physical toll on his strength and health. His mother has suffered emotional distress due to all the turmoil, and this has intensified Mr. Shin’s own suffering.
      The end of all wars
      John F. Kennedy wrote to a Navy friend: “War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.” The inverse of that perceptive prediction is fascinating: When everyone views warfare as murder and conscientiously objects to murder in all its circumstances, then all wars will cease. Warriors may equally dislike taking human lives. Yet their government gives them permission to do so with impunity in certain circumstances. It is the conscientious objector who steels himself (or herself) in face of the State’s demands, to follow the dictates of conscience.
      A winning policy, guaranteed
      South Korea’s move to adopt alternative nonmilitary service for conscientious objection would be a win-win situation: The nation would benefit from free community services rendered by productive members of society; tax revenues would accrue as conscientious objectors would also be gainfully employed instead of behind bars; with starkly fewer prison inmates, government spending on corrections would drop; and thousands of Korean families would be relieved of the stress and trauma that a family member’s unnecessary imprisonment inflicts on them. International entities worldwide are keenly anticipating the move South Korea will make as a world-leading democracy. 
      source
       
       

    • By The Librarian
      The court ruled that the Military Manpower Administration Office must suspend the disclosure of personal information identifying conscientious objectors on its website.
      Source
    • By Bible Speaks
      Amnesty International publishes the story of a Jehovah's Witness from South Korea.
       
       
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ALLOWS JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES TO AVOID MILITARY SERVICE
      A momentous change has occurred in South Korea. The South Korean Constitutional Court has ruled that a section of the Military Service Act is unconstitutional. The law is one of the oldest laws of the modern Korean government, existing for 65 years. The policy jailed any Korean man who refused conscription for military service as a consciousness objector. As WRN reported, this has imprisoned thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses for decades. The Constitutional Court ruled the section about consciousness objectors was unconstitutional because it did not provide an alternative way to fulfill civic service. Judges will now have to offer alternative options in future cases. Koreans already jailed under the Military Service Act will be released. RESOURCES

      Read more at World Religion News: "Jehovah’s Witnesses Will Now Be Exempt from Military Service Act in South Korea" https://www.worldreligionnews.com/?p=54185
    • By The Librarian
      South Korea convention somewhere....recently....
    • By admin
      Thanks Rajan for sharing this with me.
    • By Bible Speaks
      405 in prison for preaching the good news in South Korea ?? Pray for them!! Write letters!    ????????

    • By El Bibliotecario
      Anyone know the exact location? Just curious.
    • Guest Nicole
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Born to a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baek Jong-keon realized the price of his faith in South Korea at an early age. 

      His father had gone to jail for refusing to take up arms, and his three older brothers chose the same path when the time came for them to serve their mandatory military service. 
       

      Baek Jong-keon works as an assistant at a law firm in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul. Bak Se-hwan/The Korea Herald
      In a country where all able-bodied men are required to serve in the military to defend against North Korea’s 1.2 million-strong armed forces, it seemed like a bleak future awaited him, too. 

      “I grew up watching my father -- and my three brothers -- go to jail for objecting to the mandatory military service. It was hard to overcome the fear and the pain as a kid,” said Baek, 33, in an interview with The Korea Herald. 

      “That’s why I wanted to become a lawyer -- to change the situation.” 

      Baek also chose the life of a conscientious objector in South Korea -- or the life of a convicted “draft dodger.” He was sentenced to 18 months in jail by the Supreme Court in 2016. 

      He served his prison term and was released in May this year. The Korean Bar Association suspended his lawyer’s license for five years, a possibility that he had known since he was preparing for the bar exam. 

      All this, however, does not mean Baek is accepting things as they are. Now working as an assistant at a small law firm, he is fighting to regain his license. He has been rejected once, but is still fighting. 

      He is also fighting for the sake of other conscientious objectors to have the government and society recognize their freedom of conscience and offer them alternative ways to serve the country. 

      “Roughly 400 young conscientious objectors are currently in jail. I think that we should seriously consider giving them alternative forms of military service instead of just treating them as outlaws,” he said. 

      Since 2013, nearly 2,500 people were prosecuted for failing to enlist in the military, according to data from the Military Manpower Administration. The military service law mandates a prison sentence of up to three years for men who avoid the draft. 

      A majority of the 2,500 are Jehovah’s Witnesses, who object to any form of militarism. Of the total, 15 are unreligious, objecting conscription based on their personal beliefs and the principles of “no violence” and “no war.” 

      But there are growing signs that the judicial system may be easing its stance on conscientious objectors. This year alone, 40 acquittals were made at lower courts for conscientious objectors, five times more than in 2016, reflecting a possible change in legal perceptions. 

      Although no final decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the acquittals has been made yet, the repeated rulings in favor of the objectors are pressing the government to react.

      The Constitutional Court is currently reviewing the constitutionality of the conscription law, with several complaints filed regarding conscientious objection.

      During his confirmation hearing at the National Assembly last month, new Constitutional Court chief Lee Jin-sung hinted at the need to change the long-entrenched judicial practice against conscientious objection. 

      “We should take the situation seriously where people endure being sent to prison for their adherence to their conscience,” Lee said. 

      Views on conscientious objection seem to be changing as well.

      According to a survey by the National Human Rights Commission, 46.1 percent of people said last year the government should allow conscientious objection, up 12.8 percentage points from 33.3 percent in a 2011 poll. 

      “The answer is simple,” Baek said. “We just have to adopt legislation that allows conscientious objectors to carry out an appropriate alternative service of a length comparable to that of military service.” 

      Three bills are pending at the National Assembly seeking to add alternative options to the mandatory military service system. 

      Critics argue it is premature to adopt an alternative service program, especially amid ongoing threats from North Korea. It would also affect the morale of conscripted soldiers to see those citing faith -- which is hard to prove -- being allowed to avoid the tough life in barracks. 

      “We do not ask for special treatment,” Baek said. 

      “Some people wrongly assume that we would be exempted from the national duty mandated to all male citizens of South Korea once the court rules in favor of conscientious objection.

      “But we are willing to serve our country once an alternative service for objectors is introduced. That will allow us to contribute to the community in a way that does not conflict with our conscience, for instance, in the areas of public health, social welfare, the environment and labor,” Baek added. 

      He also believes that religious conscientious objectors have an important role to play. 

      “It is our part not to give up and to keep hope alive. I hope they do not resign themselves to be sent to jail, but keep appealing against the prison term to bring about change,” Baek said. 

      By Bak Se-hwan (sh@heraldcorp.com)
      http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20171204001003
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Jeong Chun-guk, who served the longest time in Korea for conscientious objection, seven years, is now a farmer. [KIM SEONG-TAE]
      For 69-year-old Jeong Chun-guk, whose seven years and 10 months in jail is still the longest time ever served by a conscientious objector to mandatory military service in Korea, the struggle for peace has finally led him to a tranquil plot of land in Geumsan County, South Chungcheong, where he can focus on farming and his faith. 

      “I believed that it was more important to spread the new world I discovered within the Bible,” he says of his decision not to serve in the military. He had followed his mother’s footsteps, becoming a Jehovah’s Witness when he was a freshman studying medicine at Chungnam National University in Daejeon. 

      Jehovah’s Witnesses have traditionally held a view that worship should be only to the “Kingdom of God,” therefore banning allegiance or participation in any national government or politics among their faithful. Though taught to obey the laws of where they inhabit, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been known to disobey the laws that conflict with their doctrines, such as denying blood transfusion and refusing to serve military duties. 

      His father, a prison officer, was at a loss for words upon hearing that Jeong had dropped out of school after only one semester. 

      “The watchtower my father climbed with his lunch box seemed like a great dungeon from some novel,” he says. “I never imagined that I would live in such a place.” 

      When Jeong turned 21 in 1969, he was incarcerated for 10 months, at the height of anti-communist sentiment following the Blue House raid on Jan. 21, 1968, when North Korean commandos attempted to assassinate then-President Park Chung-hee. 

      After the October Restoration of 1972, in which Park assumed dictatorial powers, conscientious objectors and their families were publicly shamed and the penalty was sharply increased with amendments to the Military Service Law and the new Special Acts for Violation of Military Service Law. 

      At 26, Jeong received another draft notice and arrest warrant. He sent Daejeon District court a seven-page appeal, but the appeal judge sentenced him to three years in prison, twice the initial sentencing. 

      Prison guards, he came to learn, were particularly brutal towards Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Fearing that Jehovah’s Witnesses might proselytize, they did not make us work. Instead we were forced to sit down for the whole day. The only times we could stand up were during our three meals and 15-minute exercise sessions,” says Jeong. “We prayed so that we may work standing.” 

      In those days, the Military Service Law did not allow exemptions from service until three years of penal labor had been served. The Supreme Court deemed it legal to repeat this punishment every time military service was declined, so Jeong was sentenced again in 1974. 

      Upon completing his second sentence at 29, he asked the Military Manpower Administration why a university dropout like himself was being drafted. 

      The Military Service Law back then considered candidates eligible for active duty from the time they graduated high school until the age of 28. But for undergraduates, this was extended to 30. 

      The administration replied that even freshman dropouts were considered undergraduates. 

      One day in February 1977, as he was waiting to finally go home, Jeong was taken to the 32nd Infantry Division. 

      He received another four years in jail from the military court on the conviction of “disobeying orders.” “I thought this was the end,” says Jeong, “I remember crying at the sight of my mother’s tear-filled eyes.” 

      His punishment ended in 1981 at the age of 33. 

      “It was strange to see no one stalking me from behind as I walked home,” he says. 

      Recently, a lawyer advised him to re-open his case, but Jeon has decided against this. “It’s not impossible to empathize with those who try to protect society by policing those who step out of line,” he says, “even if they have the strangest reasons.” 

      BY MOON HYEON-KYUNG [bae.seunghoon@joongang.co.kr]
      http://mengnews.joins.com/view.aspx?aId=3038797
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      The U.S. Commission in International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) sounded the alarm about the "worsening" state of affairs for religious freedom across the globe in its report for this year, the Christian News Network reported.
      The report, released on Wednesday last week, urges the U.S. Department of State to designate 16 more nations as Countries of Particular Concern (CPC), citing particular instances in those countries that merited their inclusion in the list.
      "Overall, the Commission has concluded that the state of affairs for international religious freedom is worsening in both the depth and breadth of violations," said USCIRF Chairman Thomas Reese in a statement.
      "The blatant assaults have become so frightening—attempted genocide, the slaughter of innocents, and wholesale destruction of places of worship—that less egregious abuses go unnoticed or at least unappreciated," he pointed out.
      Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, a USCIRF member, said during a panel discussion on Wednesday in Washington D.C. that the commission "specifically name names so that those stories are lifted and people gain the strength that they need in order to continue fighting for their faith," CBN News reported.
      The commission urged the State Department to designate six nations—Russia, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, and Vietnam as countries of concern.
      The commission blew the whistle on Russia due to worsening religious freedoms in that country, which became even more evident with the recent ban of Jehovah's Witnesses.
      Once again, North Korea topped the USCIRF list of countries with the most repressive regimes, noting that freedom of religion is non-existent in that communist nation.
      North Korea is also Number 1 on Open Doors USA's World Watch list of the top 50 Christian-persecuting countries in the world.
      The Commission urged both Congress and the Trump administration to continually speak up about religious freedom abuses around the world, both in public and in private meetings.
      "You cannot have religious freedom without the freedom of worship, the freedom of association, the freedom of expression and opinion, the freedom of assembly, protection from arbitrary arrest and detention, [and] protection from interference in home and family," the report states.
      Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/assaults-on-religious-freedom-worsening-worldwide-says-u-s-annual-report-184494/#4lzIKswKL2TVtmGV.99
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      A performance criticizing the government’s handling of conscientious objectors, at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square by Amnesty International Korea, the Center for Military Human Rights, World Without War, and People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) to call for an end to the publishing of personal data on military service evaders, Mar. 28. (by Kim Tae-hyeong, staff photographer)
      Objectors and civic groups calling for government to introduce alternative forms of service, instead of punishment
      On Feb. 23, the Military Manpower Administration (MMA) sent a notice to 23-year-old Park Sang-wook informing him that his personal details were to be made public as a military service evader. Park’s failure to report to the training center on his reported enlistment date of Dec. 26 was defined by the MMA as “evasion of active military service.” Barring special grounds, the notice informed him, his name, age, address, and other personal details would be published online at the end of the year.Park is a conscientious objector. His decision not to perform military service was motivated not by religious reasons, but by his pacifist convictions. On Mar. 28, he took the microphone at a press conference organized at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square by Amnesty International Korea, the Center for Military Human Rights, World Without War, and People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) to call for an end to the publishing of personal data on military service evaders.“What is evasion? It means deliberately avoiding a task because of laziness,” he said.“Under the guise of ‘protecting the public,’ the state has established a rigid military state and is massacring its own citizens or deploying them as hired soldiers,” he continued. “Tarnished as it is by defense industry corruption and suspicious deaths, isn‘t it the military itself that is really full of evasion?”Park is awaiting trial after being indicted this month for violating the Military Service Act. Unless he can present special grounds, he will have to spend eighteen months in prison. Barring other circumstances, he will have his name, address, and other personal data made public in December as a military service evader.As a fellow conscientious objector, PSPD secretary Hong Jeong-hoon is in a similar position.“Publishing personal data for someone undergoing trial defies common sense,” Hong said at the press conference.“We need to recognize individuals’ conscience and convictions and institute a system for alternative forms of military service,” he continued.Last year, the MMA began publishing personal information about military service evaders, including their name, age, address, and the nature of their evasion. The Ministry of National Defense instituted the system to prevent evasion at higher echelons in particular and promote an atmosphere of diligent military service compliance. In late 2016, it published the first list of 237 military service evaders who had not reported by December since an amendment to the Military Service Act went into effect in July 2015.The group World Without War noted that “at least 160 of the 237 people were conscientious objectors as Jehovah’s Witnesses, suggesting conscientious objects represent the majority of the system’s targets.”“As a system that seeks to use shaming to force compliance with military service duties, this system has no effect whatsoever on conscientious objectors who feel they cannot defy the dictates of their conscience, even if it means going to prison,” the group said.Speaking at the press conference, Amnesty International Korea secretary Park Seung-ho explained, “The United Nations Human Rights Committee previously said it was a breach of protocol for the South Korean government to impose prison sentences on conscientious objectors without giving them an opportunity for alternative service.”“Now the South Korean government has built up the conscientious objection issue so much that we can talk about conscientious objection being a right in itself,” Park added.“Instead of infringing more on human rights by releasing personal information, what the South Korean government should be doing is honoring its promises to the international community.”By Park Su-ji, staff reporterPlease direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]
      http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/788503.html
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