Constitutional Court affirms military service

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Constitutional Court affirms military service

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A conscientious objector to mandatory military service, Lee Jun-gyu, 27, sheds tears during a speech in front of the Constitutional Court’s gates in Jongno, central Seoul, yesterday before the court’s decision. [NEWSIS]


The Constitutional Court upheld the constitutionality of the country’s Military Act in a 7-2 opinion yesterday, once more laying down the law that men who refuse mandatory military service citing religious or political beliefs are breaking the law.

Conscientious objection to reserve troop training is also subject to punishment, the Constitutional Court said.

Article 88, section 1 of the conscription law states that those who refuse mandatory military service without valid reasons are subject to up to three years in prison.

“The said article has been enacted under the Military Act that is based on the nation’s mandatory draft system to secure soldiers and fairly distribute military responsibility for national defense,” the court said yesterday. “Thus the article is deemed legitimate and does not infringe basic rights.”

The ruling was made after several regional courts in Chuncheon, Jeonju, Daegu and Suwon requested the Constitutional Court to rule on Article 88 in September 2008.

The case was brought to the Constitutional Court again for the first time in four years after a Chuncheon court allowed a then-21-year-old Jehovah’s Witness surnamed Park to be released on bail.

Park had been sentenced to 18 months in prison by a lower court for refusing to do his military service. Three other Jehovah’s Witnesses had been indicted and sentenced with Park for the same reason.

Lower courts had said before yesterday’s ruling that it was an infringement of basic human rights for punishment to be doled out without providing a substitute for military service.

The Ministry of National Defense, however, has actively supported the Constitutional Court’s ruling, saying that providing a substitute for military service could result in men taking advantage of the policy to avoid service.

The Constitutional Court made the same decision in 2004 in a 7-2 opinion, saying that providing a substitute for military service for conscientious objectors would risk national security.


By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [뉴시스]

헌재 "양심적 병역 거부자도 처벌, 합헌"

헌법재판소는 30일 종교 등을 이유로 병역을 거부한 `양심적 병역거부자`도 다른 군기피자와 동일하게 형사처벌하도록 한 병역법 88조 1항 1호에 대해 재판관 7(합헌)대 2(한정위헌)의 의견으로 합헌 결정을 선고했다.

재판소는 "해당 조항은 징병제를 근간으로 하는 병역제도 하에서 병역자원 확보, 병역의무의 공평한 부담, 국가 안보 등의 필요에 따라 제정된 것으로 입법의 정당성이 인정되며, 기본권을 침해하지 않는다"고 밝혔다.

이에 대해 이강국, 송두환 재판관은 "양심적 자유와 병역 의무라는 헌법적 가치와 법익이 상호 충돌하고 있다"며 "현역 복무를 대신할 만한 대체복무제도를 해결해야 한다"는 의견을 냈으나 소수에 그쳤다.

병역법상 `정당한 이유 없이` 군 복무를 거부한 경우 3년 이하의 징역형에 처해진다. 종교적 이유로 병역을 거부한 박모씨 등에 대한 재판을 맡은 춘천지방법원은 2008년 9월 위헌법률심판을 제청했다.

춘천지방법원 외에 전주지방법원, 대구지방법원 김천지원, 수원지방법원도 위헌법률심판을 제청했다. 이들 법원은 "대체복무수단을 마련하지 않고 일률적으로 처벌하는 것은 기본권 침해"라고 지적했다.

이에 국방부는 국가안보를 내세워 헌법에 위반되지 않는다고 맞서왔다. 특히 대체복무를 허용할 경우 그 자체가 평등원칙에 반하고, `거짓` 양심적 병역거부자도 양산될 것이라고 우려해 왔다.

재판소는 2004년 병역법 88조 1항 1호에 대한 위헌제청 사건에 대해 "양심의 자유를 침해하는 것이라고 볼 수 없다"며 "헌법에 위반되지 않는다"는 결정을 선고한 바 있다.

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