South Korea: More than 8,000 signatures presented for the human right of conscientious objection

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In a joint action War Resisters’ International, Connection e.V. (Germany), Amnesty International Korea and World Without War (South Korea) today presented more than 8,000 signatures from 108 countries, including members of parliaments from Germany, European Union and South Korea, to the ministry of defense in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. The organizations demand the recognition of conscientious objection and the immediate and unconditional release of conscientious objectors in prison (...more). The signatures were presented by an international delegation on the International Day of Prisoners for Peace, December 1, with participation from War Resisters‘ International and Connection e.V.

In advance the minister of defense, Mr. Han Min-goo, refused to meet a delegation of the four organizations. Therefore the signatures were delivered at the entrance of the ministry. Catherine Hee-Jin Kim of Amnesty International Korea showed dismay about this reaction of the South Korean government: “It is shameful to see that such an important question is not seen as a serious issue, even though the United Nations Human Rights Committee (e.g. CCPR/C/106/D/1786/2008, February 1, 2013) addressed it several times to the South Korean government, demanding a solution.“

Sangmin Lee of World Without War and conscientious objector who stayed in prison until July 2015 stressed today in front of the ministry held press conference that actually about 700 conscientious objectors are in prison: „Every day young men, who just followed their conscience and conviction not to carry weapons, are deprived of their future. Instead they are sentenced to 18 months of prison. Therefore they have a criminal record and are discriminated their whole life. I for myself had a hard time in jail. I hope other conscientious objectors don’t have to go the same way. The prosecution of conscientious objectors must end immediately!”

Rudi Friedrich for the international conscientious objector network Connection e.V. emphasized that in view of the difficult situation more and more conscientious objectors from South Korea decide to flee the country to seek asylum abroad. “Albeit there are tensions on the Korean peninsula, this can’t be a reason to withhold the human right of conscientious objection. That more and more young men decide to leave their homeland is showing that the support of the policy of the South Korean government is diminishing.”

Today as well the Union of Conscientious Objectors in Finland (AKL), an affiliation of War Resisters International, is organizing a solidarity protest action in Helsinki in front of the South Korean embassy with the demand “Free prisoners of peace in Korea”. (…more)

Further information at www.wri-irg.org

A dossier of Amnesty International with background information to the situation of conscientious objectors in South Korea can be found at www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa25/1512/2015/en/

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