Welcome to this edition of The Broken Rifle, focusing on the situation of conscientious objectors in South Korea. This is not the first time War Resisters' International produced an issue on South Korea – the last time we did so was for Prisoners for Peace Day 2003. At that time, about 750 conscientious objectors were serving prison sentences for their conscientious objection. While this number has gone down now – according to the website of KSCO about 400 conscientious objectors are presently in prison – the legal situation of conscientious objectors has not improved considerably since November 2003. For this reason, War Resisters' International and Korea Solidarity for Conscientious Objection decided to have a focus on South Korea for the International Day on Conscientious Objection on 15 May 2009.
This issue of The Broken Rifle can only serve as an introduction to the situation of conscientious objectors in South Korea. At the same time, War Resisters' International and Korea Solidarity for Conscientious Objection are publishing a documentation (available at http://wri-irg.org/node/7168), which provides much more in depth information.
The material in this issue of The Broken Rifle and in the documentation shows how much the Korean CO movement has achieved in only eight years. But it also shows how important international pressure is in order to bring about change in South Korea. The CO movement has done a lot to mobilise the international human rights system, with a landmark decision of the United Nations Human Rights Committee on South Korea. We, as the international conscientious objection movement, now need to play our part. International grassroots support for the Korean CO movement is now urgently needed. 15 May 2009 is the opportunity to do so.