SOUTH KOREA: Another conscientious objector sentenced to 18 months in prison


War Resisters' International learned today that again a conscientious objector was sentenced to 18 months in prison in South Korea. Hee Jai Lim (SK13130-200303), 22, refused to carry guns in the military after being drafted on 18 August 2002. Usually, when someone rejects military training after entering service, a military court hands down a mandatory three-year prison sentence.

In Lim's case, the judge gave a sentence of 18 months in prison, rather than 3 years. The trial took place at the 12th Division of Military Police Court in Kangwon-do, South Korea. Lim was defended by a military attorney appointed to defend him.

Before sentencing, Lim said: "I hope that there will be no more people like me to stand in military court because of conscientious objection. I expect that our government will introduce alternative service to help individuals to serve their country loyally according to their conscience and faith." He cried while he made his speech and the judge was moved by his appeal.

Conscientious objection is a controversial issue in South Korea. Every year, about 500 young men - most of them Jehovah's Witnesses - refuse to serve in the military and are sentenced. In the past, the mandatory sentence was three years, but this was recently reduced to 18 months. At present, some 1,500 conscientious objectors are in prison in South Korea. Last week, an international conference on conscientious objection to military service was held in Seoul, South Korea, organised by Korea Solidarity for Conscientious Objection, a coalition of 30 groups working for the recognition of the right to conscientious objection.

War Resisters' International calls for letters of protest to the South Korean authorities, and South Korean embassies abroad, calling for the immediate release of all imprisoned conscientious objectors, and the recognition of the right to conscientious objection.

War Resisters' International calls for the immediate release of Hee Jai Lim and all other imprisoned consientious objectors.

Andreas Speck
War Resisters' International
Ministry of Defence
Fax: +82-2-748 6895

Roh Moo-hyun (President)
Cheong Wa Dae - Office of the President of South Korea 1, Sejongono Jongo-gu
Seoul 110-050
KOREA (Republic of)
Fax: +82-2-770 0084

National Human Rights Commission of Korea #16, euljiro 1-ga, jung-gu
Seoul 100-842
KOREA (Republic of)
fax +82-2-2125 9666

For a list of South Korean embassies abroad, see…