Consensus for drafting womenThe Constitutional Court has ruled that Korea’s current draft system, in which only males are eligible for military service, is constitutional. In a unanimous decision yesterday, the highest court turned down a constitutional appeal from 2011, which argued the current conscription system violated equal rights and military duty for all Koreans under the Constitution.
However, the court made it clear that it reached the conclusion based on “limited deliberation standards” - in other words, by looking into whether legislators infringed upon citizens’ basic rights through arbitrary interpretations, while broadly recognizing the legislators’ right to enact laws. The court ruled that the scope of the draft can best be determined if the state prioritizes combat capability for national security. The court also said that the economic costs required to establish facilities and management systems for a gender-free military service don’t fall under judicial jurisdiction.
The Constitutional Court also ruled that the decision to draft only men or both genders should be determined through social consensus rather than court intervention. Given the immense and immediate power of a Constitutional Court ruling, a contrary ruling would have had huge repercussions on our society. We understand the difficulty the court must have faced before the ruling.
It is correct to pursue public consensus on the draft system instead of seeking a judicial decision. First of all, our society is rapidly changing toward gender equality. As a result, people are increasingly raising claims about “gender discrimination” in the draft system. If the government wants to maintain its current level of troops despite a rapidly decreasing population, caused by an alarmingly low birthrate, taking advantage of female power could be inevitable. The Ministry of National Defense plans to cut the number of troops to 520,000 from the current 630,000 by 2022. That drastic cutback in young men makes it even harder to shorten their service period or secure the optimal level of combat soldiers. About 10 countries, including Israel and Taiwan, allow women to serve in the military, either in a draft system or on a contract basis.
If the government wants to let women serve in the military, it must change the facilities and management systems, not to mention the cultural atmosphere. The authorities must consider women’s physical differences as well. They also must find appropriate roles for women in the military. Despite the huge challenges involved, though, our society must think about it as long as we maintain the draft system. We hope our military will study effective ways to use female manpower to prepare for gender-free service in the military.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 13, Page 30