FEBRUARY 14, 2014
SEOUL, Korea—According to a recent Gallup poll, an increasing number of Koreans now favor their government offering alternative service to those who conscientiously object to military conscription. From November 4-7, 2013, a total of 1,211 Korean men and women participated in the survey, which revealed that 68% preferred adopting alternative service over imprisoning conscientious objectors. These findings represent a substantial shift in public opinion, since a similar survey conducted in 2008 reported that only 29% favored alternative service.
It appears that some in the Korean legal community would also prefer to have an option other than imprisonment for cases involving conscientious objection. In his editorial, “Dilemma Surrounding Conscientious Objection to Military Service,” Han In-seop, a professor at the Seoul National University, School of Law, stated: “There is hardly a judge that would categorize these objectors with committing an ethical or social offense. A detention order is not even issued to conscientious objectors as there is no worry that they will flee. With each guilty verdict that is decided, the judges are left feeling uneasy and apologetic.”
This human rights issue was recently highlighted in an independent film produced by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. The film included a segment entitled “Ice River,” which portrayed one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who refused to enter military service. The film’s director stated that he decided to make the film after learning that hundreds of Witnesses are sent to prison for conscientious objection every year. According to a report by the United Nations Human Rights Council published in June 2013, 93% of Witnesses imprisoned around the world for conscientiously objecting to military service are held in South Korea.
International: J. R. Brown, Office of Public Information, tel. +1 718 560 5000
Republic of Korea: Dae-il Hong, tel. +82 31 690 0055