South Korean COs at the UN: a string of successes

South Koreas conscien­tious objectors have been very successful in using the United Nations human rights system, but so far did not achieve the right to conscientious objection in their own country.


Instrumental have been especially Minbyun Lawyers for a Democratic Society, who have submitted several reports to the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights (one of which co-authored with War Resisters' International, see http://wri-irg.org/news/2004
/korea04-en.htm) and the Human Rights Committee. 
In 2006, their work brought results. In its "con­cluding observations", the Human Rights Committee said that South Korea should "take all necessary measures to recognize the right of conscientious objectors to be exempted from military service".


Not much later, they achieved another success: in a groundbreaking deci­sion on two individual complaints of South Korean conscientious objectors, the Human Rights Committee said that not to provide for the right to conscientious objection amounts to a violation of Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This decision is important not only for South Korea, but for conscientious objectors in any country that signed the ICCPR – in pre­sently plays an important role in a demand of uncon­stitutionality of the Colom­bian recruitment law in front of the Constitutional Court of Colombia.


Presently, about 500 more CO cases from South Korea are pending in front of the Human Rights Com­mittee. A decision on these cases will increase the pressure on the Korean government to finally recognise the right to conscientious objection.