The South Korean Supreme Court has just acquitted a man who refused to perform his mandatory military service on religious grounds.
This ruling is expected to affect over 900 men referred to as “conscientious objectors”, or who refuse to complete their military service on conscientious grounds and are currently awaiting trial.
For many years, hundreds of young men (usually Jehovah’s Witnesses) were sent to prison for up to three years, based on the Military Service Act.
Amnesty International and the Jehovah’s Witnesses say that nearly 20,000 conscientious objectors have been sent to prison and had to “live with the stigma of being ex-convicts”.
The Supreme Court of Korea, for the first time, ruled “conscience or religious beliefs” as a justifiable reason for refusing military service.
The court, has been against the practice of imprisoning conscientious objects and even ruled back in June that failure to offer alternative ways to serve was unconstitutional.
The South Korea Constitutional Court ordered the government to provide alternative activities for conscientious objectors by 2019, but the plans on how to enforce this have not been released yet.