International CO day

Solidarity action for South Korean conscientious objectors

South Korea was War Resisters' International's focus for International Conscientious Objection Day 2009 - 15 May. Jointly with the Korean organisations Korea Solidarity for Conscientious Objection (KSCO) and World Without War (WWW), WRI had organised an international meeting and training of conscientious objectors in Seoul, with participants from Eritrea, Germany, Finland, Macedonia, Israel, Puerto Rico, Spain, and South Korea.

International Conscientious Objectors' Day demonstration in South-Korea

International Conscientious Objectors' Day is observed around the world on 15th of May. It has been observed with nonviolent actions since 1986. This year the focus of the day is on South Korean conscientious objectors' (CO) poor human rights situation. International Conscientious Objectors' Day is organized by War Resisters' International (WRI) and its affiliated organizations.
 South Korea does not recognise the right to conscientious objection. Objectors to military service are sentenced to 18 months in prison. On March 31st , 458 COs were serving their sentences.

15 May – Support Korean conscientious objectors: War Resisters' International Appeal

Yongsuk Lee: Without question, were I to face call-up again, I would again object to military service. However, at the same time, I don't ever want to be put into prison again."Yongsuk Lee: Without question, were I to face call-up again, I would again object to military service. However, at the same time, I don't ever want to be put into prison again."At the time of writing this appeal, more than 450 conscientious objectors are serving prison sentences of usually 18 months in South Korea. Since 1939 more than 15,000 conscientious objectors have been to prison in the country, which up still does not recognise the right to conscientious objection.

“The CO movement has changed me”

I have an American friend who used to stay in Korea a few years ago. And I remember once he said to me that his family in the USA would often tell him to come back before a war would happen between North and South Korea. After hearing what his family said to him, I realised that people outside Korea thought about a war or a military tension even more than the people living in Korea did. (...)

The armed Forces are War-Making Machines

To be liberated or to be incarcerated? It is an unavoidably acute question. The world we live in, at the global level, is constantly at war. Not surprisingly, as of the beginning of January 2009, we can see the war currently continuing in Gaza. The 20th century is remembered as an age of wars and presumably so will be the 21st. The US government started the 'war on terror' against Iraq after the 11 September attacks. The Iraq war was nothing but another dreadful war. Not only were the nation state of Iraq and the terrorists deemed to be enemies of the US, but the US clearly declared this was a war against evil. Clarifying who is evil requires great care.

Memories of imprisonment, to which I would not like to come back

On 1 December 1 2005, I called a press conference to declare my conscientious objection to military service, with two other conscientious objectors. Since I became active in a university student movement, I had been thinking of becoming a conscientious objector, not as a pacifist but as a radical statement of resistance to the State. Interestingly enough, only after my decision to become a conscientious objector did I begin to try to live as a pacifist.

Conscientious objection helped me to encounter myself

I participated in student movements during my college years. That experience influenced me even after I graduated, and I felt very uncomfortable with the idea of becoming a soldier loyal to his country. I not only found it difficult to follow orders from any superior without questioning, but was most afraid of the forceful and violent nature of the military culture that builds up the sense of hierarchy.

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.

South Korea pays the price for big US bases

US Forces have been stationed in the Republic of Korea (ROK) since 1950. Historicallyh, their main role was to deter any possible war threat posed by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). However, the USA's Global Posture Review changes the role of US Forces in Korea (USFK) from a stationary army on the Korean peninsula into a regional hub for rapid deployment and capable of pre-emptive strikes.

Conscription in South Korea

The Republic of Korea main­tains a strict conscription regi­me. Registration for conscrip­tion is automatic for men in the year they turn 18, followed by medical examination when they are 19. The duty to enlist in the Armed Forces lasts until the age of 31, but in case of draft evaders until 36.

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