[EDITORIALS]Alternative service neededThe Supreme Court rejected yesterday the appeal of a conscientious objector who had refused to enter the draft for religious reasons. The original sentence of 18 months was upheld. The fact that the highest court made a quick decision regarding this matter is a good thing.
Following the controversial decision by a Seoul district court in May that found three conscientious objectors not guilty, contradictory verdicts by the courts and judges regarding conscientious objectors have caused enormous confusion.
The decision by the Supreme Court has made it clear that freedom of religion and conscience can be limited by law and are relative freedoms.
The court in its verdict indicated that exercising the basic rights guaranteed in the constitution has to be done in such a way that it is possible to live with others in society.
It also added that constitutional values and the lawful order should not be endangered in any way, and that this was the underlying rule for exercising any basic right. Needless to say, freedom of conscience is a very important value in a free democratic country. Nevertheless, it cannot come before the duty of guarding one’s country, which is necessary to maintain our community.
The fact that the Supreme Court has emphasized the security of our nation is eye catching. The court stressed that without national security, the values and dignity of the human beings in that nation cannot be guaranteed. Hence, military service is the means to guarantee such values and dignity.
Considering our security situation in which South and North Korea face each other heavily armed, if young men refuse to serve, taking refuge behind freedom of conscience, the results would be devastating.
Nevertheless, the court’s verdict does not solve the whole problem of conscientious objectors. There will be more people refusing the draft for religious reasons.
What our government needs to do is to come up with an alternative form of service, eligibility for which would be determined under strict rules so that it cannot be abused.
It is important to note that some judges have pointed out the need to introduce alternative forms of service. And the Constitutional Court should also reach a quick decision on the constitutionality of the draft law, which has been brought for its review.