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Latest News – South Korean activists protest state plan for alternative military service

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South Korean activists protest state plan for alternative military service


SEOUL, Nov. 6 (UPI) — South Korean civic activists have criticized the defense ministry’s draft plan to have conscientious military objectors to serve for 36 months at correction facilities as alternative military service, calling it “another form of punishment.”

According to activists, Seoul’s defense ministry is considering setting the term for alternative military service for 36 months, twice longer than the current compulsory military service term.

“We request the government to set the term 1.5 times of the current term and have more places to serve during the period,” said Lim Jae-seong of the Lawyers for a Democratic Society, a non-profit organization of liberal lawyers, in a Chosun Ilbo report.

The defense ministry has been discussing alternative military service for conscientious objectors that will replace the current mandatory military service, following court decisions that uphold right for conscientious objection to military service.

Human rights activists have protested the ministry’s draft plan to have them serve for 36 months at only correction facilities.

Lee Yong-seok, a conscientious objector and an activist at Seoul-based World Without War, said 36 months are too harsh, calling the plan a “regression in human rights,” in a radio interview on CPBC last week.

South Korea’s state human rights agency and the United Nations recommended earlier that the South Korean government set the alternative service term for conscientious objectors under 27 months, according to a joint statement by Amnesty International and four other South Korean NGOs.

Lim said the government should include more facilities other than prison, where objectors currently end up after refusing to join the military.

The Supreme Court ruled last week that individuals’ conscientious or religious beliefs are justifiable reasons to refuse military service. The ruling overturns its 2004 decision that found conscientious objectors violate the national law that obligates every able-bodied South Korean man to perform the country’s mandatory military service.

Another court decision found in June that punishing those who object to serving is a violation of freedom of conscience.

A total of 2,699 men refused to serve in the military from 2013 to 2017 with most based on their religious beliefs, according to the Military Manpower Administration. The conscientious objectors serve an 18-month prison term and leave with a criminal record.

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