It looks like conscientious objectors in Korea will not be able to do alternative service and continue to be sent to prison instead:
South Korea’s military indicated on Wednesday it would hold off on a plan for alternative service for conscientious objectors to the armed forces who are now jailed if they refuse conscription.
Military service of about two years is mandatory for all able-bodied South Korean men in order to field a fighting force strong enough to prevent North Korea’s 1.2 million-strong army from attacking. The United States stations about 28,000 troops in the South to support its military.
South Korea’ Defense Ministry released a survey on Wednesday saying that nearly 70 percent of the public was opposed to allowing alternative service. It has said the poll results would weigh heavily on its policy decision.
“We can understand it is still too early to allow alternative forms of military service for conscientious objectors,” spokesman Won Tae-jae told a news briefing. The ministry had not yet made a final decision, he added.
The Defense Ministry has floated the idea over the past few years of allowing conscientious objectors to perform community service or a non-combat military related jobs.
But conservative and veterans groups have objected, saying it would encourage draft dodging and weaken the country’s ability to deter North Korea, which on Tuesday repeated a threat to reduce the South to ashes.
About 300,000 men are conscripted each year into the South’s military or riot police. But around 750 men annually refuse to join on moral grounds, often because they are pacifists.
They typically receive prison sentences of about two years. Criminal records make it difficult for objectors to find good jobs and the issue of army service is often raised by potential employers during job interviews. [Reuters]
Service in the Korean Army can start at the age of 19 but can join later due to college or family reasons. If conscientious objector were allowed alternative service then I think there would be a huge jump in the number of people claming this status. The number of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Korea would probably go through the roof.
However, I think the bigger picture being missed here which is does Korea still need the mandatory service requirement in the first place? South Korea is a wealthy and modern country that is for all intents and purposes using slave labor to man their military force.