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NHRCK Voices Opinion on Unconstitutionality of Reserve Forces Act

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea to submit an official opinion on the unconstitutionality of the Reserve Forces Act to the Constitutional Court.

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) will submit an official opinion on the Ulsan District Court’s appeal to the Constitutional Court, which declared Article 15, Paragraph 8 of the Establishment of Homeland Reserve Forces Act as unconstitutional on April 30, 2007. This opinion will reaffirm the Commission’s position that the right to conscientious objection should be recognized, a selective service system should be introduced, and conscientious objectors should not be prosecuted.

A request was made to deliberate the constitutionality of the clause in question, which states that any person who does not participate in mandatory reserve forces training may be imprisoned up to one year and fined up to two million Korean won.

The Ulsan District Court contended that the introduction of a selective service system on conscientious objection to service in the reserves would involve soft restrictions and have only a slight impact on national security compared to that of conscientious objection to active military service. The district court went on to argue that the Constitutional Court should not simply expect the legislature to make more efforts to improve the situation or urge lawmakers to do so; rather, the Constitutional Court should boldly declare the unconstitutionality of the clause.

The Commission’s opinion is aligned with the opinion of the Ulsan District Court., believing that forcing contentious objectors (COs) into reserve forces and denying alternative service opportunities is tantamount to denying social minorities human dignity and freedom of conscience. Additionally, repeatedly calling COs to reserve duty is arbitrary, as they will continue to refuse due to their religious beliefs, and casts serious doubts on the effectiveness of the current penalties stipulated in the clause.

In South Korea, those who have successfully completed conscription must report to the reserves for approximately eight years after active duty, or for 148 hours. If a reservist refuses to comply with duty or participate in a training session, the person is brought to a summary trial and sentenced a fine of hundreds of thousands of Korean won. The reservist must then fulfill the delinquent time during the following quarter, or even the following year. Refusing to make up delinquent time results in heavier penalties.

Currently, there are over 100 COs in South Korea. Many of the COs in Korea have suffered infringement of their freedom of conscience, due to the repeated and excessive penalties for refusing to fulfill compulsory reserve forces service requirements.

The Commission notes that Article 19 of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea states, “All citizens shall enjoy freedom of conscience.” This freedom of conscience must include the freedom to abstain from forced compliance, including the right to conscientious objection. The right to conscientious objection resides in the protection of the freedom of conscience. The Commission will restate its opinion that mental anguish and conflicts that COs suffer should not be overlooked, and that a selective service system should be instituted to create a compromise between the freedom of conscience and mandatory military service.

Source is from 17/12/2007

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