Military service is highly regarded in South Korean society. However, the issue of conscientious objectors, who refuse to serve in the military on moral or religious grounds, has sparked controversy.
Singer Yoo Seung-joon has appealed a court's verdict that ruled it was lawful for South Korean authorities to deny him a Korean visa because of his refusal to serve in the South Korean military. The Korean government has banned the singer from entering South Korea for the past 14 years. Draft dodging is an issue that is taken very seriously in Korean society. However, back in 2001 a man named Oh Tae-yang was the first in Korea to announce his conscientious objection. And for the first time, Judge Park Si-hwan from the Seoul Southern District Court appealed the constitutionality of the Military Service Act, which calls for punishing conscientious objectors.
[Soundbite] KBS News 9(May 21, 2004) : "A court has ruled for the first time in favor of a conscientious objector who refuses military service on religious grounds."
In 2004, a ruling in favor of a conscientious objector was issued for the first time at the first trial.
But the Supreme Court found the defendant guilty. And the Constitutional Court ruled that the Military Service Act was constitutional, which seemingly put an end to the controversy. However, more appeals ensued and the courts of first instance kept ruling in favor of conscientious objectors, leaving the issue of conscientious objection unresolved in judicial circles.
[Soundbite] So Keun-ho(Opponent of Conscientious Objection) : "I believe that people who refuse to serve in the military must take responsibility for their choice."
[Soundbite] Kim Sang-hyuk(Advocate of Conscientious Objection) : "I think it's okay to refuse military service for religious or political reasons."
While the controversy continues to brew, the Constitutional Court of Korea will soon reach its third decision on whether the Military Service Act is constitutional or not.