Korea, South

South Korea’s Ministry of Defense proposed a system for alternative service to the military on Dec. 28, following a historic decision by the Constitutional Court in June, which ruled that the existing law does not guarantee freedom of conscience. The court’s decision —which was a major victory for the movement to recognize conscientious objection in South Korea — has sparked a fierce debate over the issue. There have been tangible achievements, such as the Supreme Court finding a conscientious objector to be innocent for the first time ever on Nov. 1. However, the struggle over how the alternative service system will work is just beginning.

Last Thursday, in a landmark decision, South Korea’s Constitutional Court ordered the government to introduce alternative service of a civilian nature for conscientious objectors. The court ruled that Article 5 of the Military Service Act (MSA), which fails to provide alternative forms of national service, is unconstitutional and obligated lawmakers to change the law by the end of 2019.

On 15th May - International Conscientious Objection Day - War Resisters' International drew attention to the 250+ young people in jail in South Korea for refusing military service. Hundreds of people sent messages of protest to the Korean authorities and messages of support to conscientious objectors in South Korea!

Seventy years after the partition of Korea, the southern part of the peninsula experiences ever-increasing military expenditure, drawing millions of Koreans into a compulsory 21-month long military service. Despite this, the general public tends to neglect how civil society in a post-Korean War (1950-53) context has been militarised.

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