[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]Objector status neededThe Supreme Court’s ruling against conscientious objectors Thursday continues the Republic of Korea’s unfortunate position as an outlier among free countries. Nearly all advanced, democratic states that practice conscription today - including those facing pressing security situations - offer some form of alternative service. The Constitutional Court or the National Assembly must step forward and complete the country's transition from an authoritarian society to one of the world’s thriving democracies by creating such a system.
The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe agreed in 1990 that all member states must provide alternative service. In Germany today, draftees that choose civilian work make a vital contribution to the nation’s health care system. In the United States, the Supreme Court ruled in 1970 (during the country’s last experience with a draft, the Vietnam War) that the state must respect all conscientious objectors, whether or not their beliefs are affiliated with a recognized religious sect.
Koreans may protest that neither Europeans nor Americans face the same threat as on the divided peninsula. Yet Taiwan has evolved to offer alternative service, despite the combat readiness necessitated by tensions with China.
The Taiwanese, like the Koreans, understand the importance of a powerful military deterrent to guarantee peace, and thus only a small percentage opt out of military service.
There are a handful of countries, including Russia, that do not respect conscientious objectors. Yet this is not the sort of international company that Korea wishes to keep.
by Jason Manning