Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Conscientious Objection in Korea

South Korea has mandatory military service and is one of the few countries without alternative service for those who are conscientious objectors. A seminary professor visits the issue in his article in the Peace Weekly on the Social Gospel. He admits to understanding the Korean situation for security but has problems with the way it is implemented. Why do the seminarians have to bear arms? He agrees that all need to be responsible for the security of the country but this can be done with alternative service for the country.

There are  many other countries with compulsory military service who allow for alternative service.  Those that have problems with serving in the military, are not confined to prison or treated as criminals

According to a report from the United Nations those who in 2013 where in prison because they refused to serve in the military for religious or other reasons were 723, and 669 were Koreans. This shows, he says, a serious  issue with which the country should be concerned.

He goes on to ask: What does Catholicism teach about this issue? "Conscientious objectors who, out of principle, refuse military service in those cases where it is obligatory because their conscience rejects any kind of recourse to the use of force or because they are opposed to the participation in a particular conflict, must be open to accepting alternative forms of service. It seems just that laws should make humane provision for the case of conscientious objectors who refuse to carry arms, provided they accept some other form of community service”(Compendium of the Social Gospel (#505).

The priest would like to see this issue discussed among citizens. Before the change of government there was a movement among the politicians to work for a change. The Catholic Church has made it clear where she stands on the issue of conscientious objection but because of North Korea it is not a issue that people want to discuss and this is also true within the church. Since you have those who are serving the country at great sacrifice, they do not look upon those who do not serve with sympathy.

There are some Catholics who are in prison because of refusal to serve in the military but the overwhelming majority are Jehovah's Witnesses. It is clear that the country is not going along with the rest of the world on this issue, and they feel justified because of their particular situation. Hopefully, with a  change in the thinking of the citizens we will see a change in the way we look  upon the issue. These men who return to civilian life after their prison terms will have a difficult time because they are considered criminals, a label that will follow them for life.

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