[EDITORIALS]Citizens have to uphold dutiesThe court acquitted conscientious objectors who refused to perform their mandatory military service on religious grounds. The court’s decision has overturned the past rulings that interpreted the meaning of “freedom of conscience” and “freedom of religion” in a very narrow way.
The courts’ decision is likely to have a very complex impact. Foremost, individuals have to juggle between the freedom of conscience and the reality of one’s mandatory military service. Freedom of conscience is a very important element in a free democracy. Nevertheless, military duty is also a very important task for individuals because they have a responsibility to serve as members of society.
With such two very important values pitted against each other, the question arises about where the limits of one’s freedom should be placed. But if someone else gets harmed in any way when one exercises one’s freedom, limits are necessary.
If the interpretation of freedom of conscience is going to be very broad in the future, just as the recent verdict, then not only specific religious groups but also peace activists and those who preach ideological freedom will assert their right not to have to perform military service.
If that happens, we have to worry about how well the duty, which is in our constitutional law, will be upheld, because almost everyone would just love to live comfortably instead of serving for a couple of years.
Freedom of religion and freedom of conscience are both rights that have to be protected with the power of the nation. It is also true that the U.N. Human Rights Commission, of which Korea is a member, asks its members to accept conscientious objectors in one of its articles.
Still, if we are to continue to live together as one nation, we have to comply with and accept the rules for that group. For Korean citizens, that means to accept the duties laid out in the Constitution.
If someone refuses to perform military service based on religious reasons, he can still serve his country through other duties. But even this is very limited as military duties are directly linked to the security of the country. As a result, we must very carefully watch the decision by the upper court on this matter.