South Korea to introduce alternative service for military objectors

SEOUL, June 29 (UPI) — The Ministry of Defense said it will set up a body to filter conscientious military service objectors among draft dodgers after the Constitutional Court ruled they should be given an alternative way to meet obligatory service.

“The Ministry will come up with a process or a body to determine conscientious objectors,” said a ministry official in a press conference on Friday, Yonhap reported.

The court ruled Thursday that punishing those who object to serving based on personal beliefs is a violation of freedom of conscience.

A total of 2,699 men refused to serve in the military from 2013 to 2017, with most based on their religious beliefs, according to the Military Manpower Administration. The conscientious objectors instead serve an 18-month prison term and leave with a criminal record.

The official said details of an alternative service hasn’t been decided yet, but the plan is to make it tough enough to prevent the chance of it being abused by draft dodgers.

All able-bodied South Korean men between the age of 18 to 35 must fulfill mandatory military service.

The country has seen many cases in which young men try to evade serving in the military by using a variety of tactics, ranging from undertaking graduate studies to starving or purposely harming themselves to be considered unsuitable for service.