Korea, South

Recent updates from South Korea increase hopes for the recognition of the right to conscientious objection in the country. Since our last update, three more conscientious objectors, who had been indicted for their refusal to serve in the military, have been found not guilty by their district court. Meanwhile, the Government and the President Moon Jae-in, who promised to introduce an alternative civilian service during his election campaign, has continued to face pressure from human rights groups for the recognition of the right.

Moses John (South Sudan) and Jungmin Choi (South Korea) are members of WRI's Council, and attended protests in London against the DSEI arms fair. They both gave speeches about the impact of the arms trade in their countries and around the world - you can hear some of what they had to say in this video.

When young college students in Seoul went out to march through the streets calling for Park Geun-hye’s impeachment in a long streak of demonstrations that started last October, it wasn’t difficult to bump into an acquaintance blocking you — dressed in a navy military drab armed with combat gear.

On 25th May, War Resisters' International organised a webinar on conscientious objection, peace education and countering youth militarisation in South Korea. In the webinar, we had presentations from two Seoul-based peace campaigners active in the field for many years: Hanui Choi, Coordinator and Peace Education Facilitator at PEACE MOMO, and Seungho Park, a conscientious objector and an activist from World without War.

This Thursday (25th May), War Resisters' International is organising a webinar on conscientious objection, peace education and countering youth militarisation in South Korea. In the webinar, we will be joined by two Seoul-based activists, Hanui Choi (PEACE MOMO) and Seungho Park (World without War), who have been active within the peace movement for many years. In order to join us, register here: http://www.anymeeting.com/PIID=ED50D784854B3A

Lee Sangmin

Sometimes I dream about the past. Usually, I don't dream about positive experiences, just days I regret and memories I want to run away from. Memories remains an unconscious pressure, and come to me often in my dreams. It smells like a scent of dirt just before raining. I also dream about the future that never came. In the worst case scenario, the very situations I want to avoid appear in my dreams. I always breath a sigh when I wake up, and I’m glad they didn’t happen to me in real life.

What is the worst thing that can happen to me while in prison? For prisoners, the most anticipated thing is being released. I believe that most prisoners hope to get an early release through parole, by being a model prisoner. In a horrible place where I cannot even open the door, I cannot get out of the day and see the outside air and the landscape beyond 4 meters of the wall, sharing love with my beloved, smiling with my friends and family. I feel my heart beating so fast by imagining these things. At the same time, it is frustrating that this reality, these good things, are not available to me right now. If the scheduled parole is cancelled, it will be a terrible thing. Only three month left I have to spend. But those short days keep dragging on.

The appeal court of the Gwangju District in Korea, overturned the guilty verdicts of two conscientious objectors, Cho Rak-hoon and Kim Hyung-geun. The decision is a victory for conscientious objectors in Korea as it is the first time an appeal court has reversed guilty verdicts in a conscientious objectors case. The appeal court also rejected prosecutors’ calls to convict a third conscientious objector, Kim Hye-min, who was found not guilty at his initial trial in May 2015.

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Information submitted by the International Fellowship of Reconcilitation and Conscience and Peace Tax International

INTERNATIONAL FELLOWSHIP OF RECONCILIATION

Submission to the 115th Session of the Human Rights Committee

REPUBLIC OF KOREA

(Military service, conscientious objection and related issues)

Updated: September 2015. Contact:

Derek BRETT

International Fellowship of Reconciliation

Main Representative to the UN, Geneva

derek.brett@ifor.com

Tel: (41) 77 462 9825

Background: the issue in the Human Rights Committee

In its concluding observations on the Third Periodic Report of the Republic of Korea under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Human Rights Committee expresses its concern “that: (a) under the Military Service Act of 2003 the penalty for refusal of active military service is imprisonment for a maximum of three years and that there is no legislative limit on the number of times they may be recalled and subjected to fresh penalties; (b) those who have not satisfied military service requirements are excluded from employment in government or public organisations and that (c) convicted conscientious objectors bear the stigma of a criminal record,” and recommends: “The State party should take all necessary measures to recognize the right of conscientious objectors to be exempted from military service. It is encouraged to bring legislation into line with article 18 of the Covenant. In this regard, the Committee draws the attention of the State party to the paragraph 11 of its general comment No. 22 (1993) on article 18 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion).”1

The United Nations' Human Rights' Committee have published new concluding observations following the examination of Austria and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) as part of the Universal Periodic Review.

The Committee called upon the state of Austria to 'ensure that the length of service alternative to military service required for conscientious objectors is not punitive in nature.'

It demanded that the Republic of Korea:

'(a) Immediately release all conscientious objectors condemned to a prison sentence for exercising their right to be exempted from military service;

(b) Ensure that the criminal records of conscientious objectors are expunged, that they are provided with adequate compensation and that their information is not publicly disclosed; and

(c) Ensure the legal recognition of conscientious objection to military service, and provide conscientious objectors with the possibility to perform an alternative service of civilian nature.

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