[EDITORIALS]Wrong-headed decisionThe National Human Rights Commission has reportedly decided to approve the right to conscientious objection to military service at a committee meeting on Monday. Although a final decision has not yet been made ― the members of the committee did not reach agreement on a detailed definition of conscientious objection and alternative forms of military service ― it is a matter of concern that the commission’s opinion shows such a preference. Regardless of the justification, allowing the refusal of military service can shake the foundation of the duty of guarding one’s country.
Freedom of religion and conscience, which is guaranteed in the constitution, is a basic human right that should be protected as much as possible. There are over 1,000 men who chose prison instead of military service because of such reasons. But the obligation to serve in the Army is also a very important value as a duty to maintain our community. The issue left is how to arbitrate when the freedom of religion and conscience conflicts with the military service obligation.
Legal decisions on conscientious objection were handed down last year when the Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s conviction of a conscientious objector and the Constitutional Court ruled that the current Military Service Act was constitutional. The rulings mean that freedom of conscience is not a right to refuse the military service obligations. Considering the situation where the North and the South confront each other militarily, the values and dignity of the people in the country cannot be guaranteed if national security is shaken because military duty was not properly enforced. In reality, the ways and procedures to confirm an individual’s conscience is subjective and the standard to distinguish conscientious objection from a shirking of service is vague. It is the same for an alternative form of service. Who would choose difficult military service if they can avoid it under better conditions by arguing for freedom of conscience?
The commission had been frowned on for interfering in political issues that were not related to human rights, including its opposition to the National Security Law and to dispatching Korean troops to Iraq. In particular, it is hard to understand why the commission kept silent on North Korean human rights even when the United Nations General Assembly acts.
The commission deserves to be blamed for shaking the country’s foundations by opposing the rulings of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court. Nobody will respect the commission if it makes a decision that only matches the political preferences of the current government without a passion for the improvement of human rights.