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Amnesty International publishes the story of a Jehovah's Witness from South Korea. Â
Judge Kim Jin-Wook, of the south Seoul District Court, dispatched two Jehovah's Witnesses to violate the military service act, in the last addition to a series of judicial rulings in favour of conscientious objectors. Men, both of whom were 23 years old, were accused of disobeying the government's order to enlist in the army in 2014 because of their faith. The judge said that his non-compliance had " justifiable reasons " and that it was due to the government's " negligence " to provide alternative ways to serve the country. There are about 20.000 conscientious objectors in South Korea who have gone to jail for refusing to serve in the armed forces based on freedom of thought, conscience or religion, as military service became mandatory for all Healthy Men during the 1950-1953 S WAR. Conscientious objectors have been uniformly sentenced to 18 month s' imprisonment. Only this year, more than 30 conscientious objectors have been acquitted. But the Supreme Court held that conscientious objection is illegal, revoking the acquittals in 16 cases this year.
Support for conscientious objection increases (KOREA) By Kim Se-jeong The number of people in Korea who support conscientious objection has risen significantly over the last decade, a recent survey showed, Monday. According to the survey conducted by the National Human Rights Commission on 2,556 people aged 15 or older from May to December, 46.1 percent of respondents said the country should allow conscientious objection. The commission has conducted the survey regularly and the support ratio has increased from 10.2 percent in 2005 to 33.3 percent in 2011. "Tolerance has improved, but it is clear that conscientious objection is still a contentious issue in Korean society," the commission said in a report. "The number shows it is time for open discussion about it." The survey didn't mention what contributed to the change in public opinion. All able-bodied men aged 18 or older in Korea are obliged to serve in the military. Objectors are subject to prison terms. According to statistics, almost 600 men are punished every year for refusing to serve. Most objectors in Korea cite religion or personal belief in peace as reasons for refusal. Many of them are Jehovah's Witnesses, a Christian denomination. They demand the government give them an opportunity to serve the country in other ways by introducing alternative services. But the government has refused to accommodate their request, saying no exception is allowed for compulsory military service. The survey results came out hours before a local court ruling in favor of conscientious objection. Siding with a 23-year-old conscientious objector surnamed Park, the Jeonju District Court in North Jeolla Province said, "We recognized that the defendant refused to serve on the basis of his religion and values, which is an individual freedom given to all." Park, a Jehovah's Witness, was taken to court by the government in June last year after refusing to comply with the mandatory service. A dozen other local courts and an appeals court in Gwangju have also ruled in favor of conscientious objectors. The Constitutional Court has been reviewing petitions from such people and is expected to make a ruling sometime early this year on whether compulsory military service infringes on individuals' freedoms and whether the country needs to allow alternative services. The ruling was originally due by the end of last year, but was put off as the court has been focusing on the review of President Park Geun-hye's impeachment. In 2004 and 2011, it ruled against objectors. THE KOREAN TIMES