[EDITORIALS]Following one's conscience

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[EDITORIALS]Following one's conscience

The issue of conscientious objectors, which had been considered an issue for only a few religions in the past, has now spread to civic movements and onto university campuses. We would like to express concern that should this objection to serving in the military even at the cost of several disadvantages go beyond the religious dimension and become a student movement, it would impose serious threats to the national defense of our country.

Movements centered around the student councils of certain universities have designated this issue as a central agenda for the second half of this year and have started a campaign to collect 100,000 signatures in support of the cause. On Armed Forces Day, celebrated last Tuesday, groups of students gathered at the front gates of the National Assembly and the Ministry of National Defense for unannounced rallies, demanding the rights of those who object to military service for religious and other ethic-related reasons.

Since late last year, there have been more than 20 young men who have refused to respond to calls for mandatory military service, citing opposition to war and other reasons not related to religion. The objectors claimed that their religious and ethical rights were protected by the constitution and therefore could not be infringed upon by military service laws. The objectors instead demanded alternative, nonmilitary service for the country.

How is a standard to evaluate this extremely abstract and subjective thing called "conscience" to be made, and who is to defend our military from "pseudo-conscientious" objectors trying to wriggle their way out of their military duties? If the idea that there are other alternatives to military service catches on with young people, who would ever want to enter the army?

Because the North and the South still stand divided and in contention, conscientious objections and demands for alternative ways to serve the country will not win any support from the public. If we consider that true "conscientious" people are those who have finished their military service in all diligence, or those who are still serving in the army, then the demand to be exempt from the army for conscientious reasons could be "unconscientious."

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