Seoul, Oct 26 (efe-epa) .- Dozens of South Korean conscientious objectors began their alternative service for the first time since two 2018 sentences dictated the need to establish a parallel program to compulsory military service.
Specifically, 63 objectors began their training program Monday in a prison in Daejeon (center of the country), where they will work in the kitchens or perform cleaning services, according to the personnel administration of the South Korean Armed Forces.
This is a historic breakthrough for a country that is technically still at war with its northern neighbor and where military service is mandatory for all able-bodied males, who must serve in one of the three army corps for between 18 and 21 months.
However, the alternative provision that has been projected by the National Assembly (Parliament), with the ruling and liberal Democratic Party at the fore, has been criticized by certain sectors for harsher conditions considered deterrents or punishments for objectors.
They will have to work in prisons for three years – 36 months compared to the 18 to 21 months for normal military service.
The Justice Ministry will supervise the fulfillment of the alternative service and objectors will have exactly the same pay and the same days of discharge as those who perform military service.
Those absent without permission for more than eight days will face criminal charges.
The reform promoted by the 2018 sentences allows for conscientious objection – until now a crime for which some 20,000 people have been imprisoned since the 1950s – to those who prove their religious beliefs about non-violence forbid military service.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, who have accounted for 95 percent of the imprisoned so far, are also among the majority of those who have been granted the right to perform alternative service by the committee charged with evaluating these beliefs.
For now, this committee has granted 626 men the right not to perform military service, according to army sources cited by the Yonhap agency. EFE-EPA