By Bible Speaks
Amnesty International publishes the story of a Jehovah's Witness from South Korea.
Support for conscientious objection increases
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
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Posted : 2017-01-10
By Kim Se-jeong