South Korea’s Military Conscription Law Challenged by Religious Conscientious Objectors

South Korea’s mandatory military conscription law is once again being challenged by religious conscientious objectors. The Constitutional Court held a public hearing on Thursday to determine whether religious objectors to military service are still subject to the same punishments that are given to other citizens who refuse to perform their military service.

South Korean law mandates that citizens who refuse to perform military service, without a valid reason, are subject to imprisonment for up to three years. Currently, religious conscientious objections are not recognized as a valid reason to not serve.
The Constitutional Court upheld the conscription law when it was challenged in 2004 and 2011. According to a legal representative of conscientious objectors who filed a petition against the law, 706 young men are currently imprisoned in South Korea for refusing to perform military service – many due to religious conscientious objections.

A lawyer for South Korea’s Defense Ministry, however, responded by saying that “while individuals’ freedom is important, the national security is the indispensable precursor to protect the freedom and rights of all people.”

It will be interesting to see how this Court deals with this issue.

Sean Hayes may be contacted at:

Sean Hayes is co-chair of the Korea Practice Team at IPG Legal. He is the first non-Korean attorney to have worked for the Korean court system (Constitutional Court of Korea) and one of the first non-Koreans to be a regular member of a Korean law faculty.

Sean is ranked, for Korea, as one of only two non-Korean lawyers as a Top Attorney by AsiaLaw. Sean’s profile may be found at: Sean C. Hayes

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