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Stop making excuses, Keep the promise!

Statement by Korea Solidarity for Conscientious Objection

On December 24, the Ministry of National Defense announced the result of the survey that The Military Manpower Administration (MMA) had commissioned with a policy think tank of Daejeon University. The announcement was mainly focused on the negative outcomes of the public consensus. Last June, the MMA announced that the final decision will be based on public agreements. Therefore, this survey could completely annul the alternative service for conscientious objectors announced on September, 2007.

Since the liberation, over 13,000 young men chose life of ex-convict for refusing to serve the military service for conscientious reasons. Even after 2001, when this issue emerged as a social problem, over 4,800 young men served the jail time. The MMA was advised by the National Human Right Commissions of Korea and UN Council of Human Rights a number of times. Moreover, despite the "2008 International Religious Freedom Report" released by the Department of State, and several international voices urging to introduce alternative service, the MMA is delaying its decision on the pretext of public consensus.

Although in this last survey conducted by the MMA showed many opposing opinions on the alternative service, it is important to point out that there have been many other surveys that yielded just the opposite results. MMA's public hearing held last October showed that over 80% of community leaders were in favor of alternative service system, and in the public opinion survey held last September by the Realmeter & 961Sample, the number of people who were in favor of alternative service exceeded the other group (Realmeter: 44.3% in favor, 38.7% against; 961 Sample: 55.9% in favor, 38.9% against). Thus, survey results tend to vary by the time it‘s being conducted and the type of questions, the government cannot base its decision based on one opinion survey.

On top of that, attempting to solve human rights issue of the minority group using opinion survey is definitely a dangerous idea. By definition, members of the minority group hold different ideas to what's generally accepted in their society. Judging the minority based on conventional standards, and forcing them to agree with them is a serious threat to the diversity in democracy and an act of violence to them. The MMA should never forget that a survey of public opinion is nothing more than an effective tool to understand public's consensus, and not an absolute criterion.

The MMA should stop attempting to annul the alternative service on a pretext of public consensus. Instead, it should prepare to implement the system as it has promised the citizens on September of 2007. It is a coward excuse to blame on public opinion when the MMA has done nothing to form a consensus. This is a clear delinquency on their part. While the MMA is idling its time away, over 450 peace loving young men are incarcerated. If the MMA decides to annul the alternative service system at once, the number of conscientious objectors in the prison system will easily surpass 1,000 since many of those who have been postponing enrollment or court judgment will now have to go to jail. This is certainly a great disgrace to the international community. It is up to the MMA to decide whether it will become an untrustworthy government by breaking the promise it has made, or an honorable government which works hard for the human rights and democracy.

24 Dec 2008

Korea Solidarity for Conscientious Objection