News / Asia

S. Korean Conscientious Objectors Seek Alternative to Military Service

S. Korea's Conscientious Objectors Face Dilemmai
X
February 09, 2014 1:07 AM
South Korea requires all able-bodied male citizens to serve about two years in their nation’s armed forces. Of those who object to military duty on moral grounds, most end up in prison. From Seoul, Jason Strother tells us more.
VIDEO: Hundreds of able-bodied South Korean men are imprisoned each year for refusing compulsory military service
Jason StrotherMalte Kollenberg
Kim Ji-kwan does not return to this jail on the outskirts of Seoul very often. Having spent just more than a year locked in one of its cells, the 33 year old's crime is one that many are afraid to commit: refusing to serve in South Korea’s military.

“I became a conscientious objector because I learned from the Bible that you have to love your neighbor and your enemy," he says. "We should love life.”

Kim’s father and two brothers also spent time in jail. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, they say learning to use weapons or fight goes against their religious convictions.

Kim says he would have been open to other types of service.  

“If there were an alternative service, one that does not go against my beliefs, then I would have done that," he says. "A service that does not require actual military training.”

According to government figures, each year hundreds of able-bodied South Korean men are sentenced to up to 18 months in prison for refusing compulsory military service.

While not all of them refuse a stint in the armed forces on strictly moral grounds, most end up behind bars.

According to London-based War Resisters' International (WRI), an advocacy group that keeps track of conscientious objectors worldwide, South Korea's statistics stand out.

“According to the data ... the largest number of imprisoned conscientious objectors — not necessarily the number of objectors themselves, but imprisoned objectors — is currently in South Korea," said WRI’s Sergeiy Sandler via Skype. "The way conscientious objectors are treated are, of course, substandard in all human rights senses.”

South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense says there are no plans to change its conscription policy. The Ministry declined an interview request but has pointed to security concerns with North Korea as justification for maintaining the status quo.

Lee Jae-seong, a law professor at Konkuk University in Seoul, says public opinion no longer supports the government’s policies.

“The South Korean government has always stressed security and has said that an alternative to military service would harm our safety," he said. "But the public no longer believes that. Only the government is holding on to that idea."

Lee points out that a recent Gallup poll indicates 68 percent of respondents say they are in favor of creating such an alternative service so that conscientious objectors will not have to go to jail.

Conscientious objector Kim Ji-kwan says he and the other men in his family did the right thing by going to prison for their beliefs. But if he one day has a son, he says, he would not expect him to carry on the tradition.

Refusing to serve is a personal decision based on one’s own faith, he says.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Kim from: South Korea
February 11, 2014 6:56 AM
Consientious objectors are not violating korean laws, but koreans laws are violating their rights of conscience and religion guarranteed by the Constitution. Which is higher value? The Constitution or laws? The anwer is obvious.


by: Robin Mprgan from: USA
February 10, 2014 12:01 AM
Anybody wanting to knpe truth about JW's should do their own research. The comment about them helping only themselves is oncorrect and mostly purported by active opposers of pur religion. So nursedeb is flat wrong.


by: Parker from: Mexico
February 09, 2014 7:30 PM
Cool Look at the last scene. He has the new English Bible!


by: nursedebb from: Colorado
February 09, 2014 4:41 PM
Ridiculous that the JW's rely on politicians and governments to protect their right to worship as they desire, but do nothing at all to assist others despite calling themselves "Christian" In any natural disaster they JW's only help their own, they do not help or assist anyone that is not a Jehovah's Witness. Absolutely ridiculous that they cry and whine about being jailed for disobeying the law.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid