Objectors' stories

Dong Hyuk Na

For 50 years, since the Korean War, about 10,000 COs have been imprisoned. Most of those COs were Jehovah's Witnesses. Not until the 21st century did COs who have ideological, political beliefs appear amid serious reflection on militarism and nationalism. The anti-war movement in Korea, which began after 11 September 2001, exerted a great influence on their conviction against war and for peace. I am one of those and the fourth objector for nonreligious reasons.

I have been deeply involved in the student movement, getting together with communists. My experiences as a student activist planted indignation toward the national power into my mind. However, I was not very sensitive about our internal militarism, because of the strong influence of the student movement which emphasizes a collective position. Exchanges with the three objectors before me changed my thought a lot and led me to decide to object to military service after serious self-examination.

I strongly believe that we can achieve peace by peaceful means, and that we have to overturn the warsystem for peace. I declared my objection in public on 12 of September last year, and was sentenced to one and a half years' imprisonment at the first trial. Now my case is still pending in court after my release on bail at the second trial.

At present I work for the CO group World Without War' (WWW) and join various actions for peace.

Chang-Sik Kim (aged 50)

In 1970 military training began in high schools across the nation under the military government. At that time Chang-Sik Kim, who was a Jehovah's Witness and high school student, refused the military training. He was forced to withdraw from school at the age of 17 in the same year.

Kim refused military service in 1974, and was sentenced to eight months in prison. On the very day he was released after having served the prison term, Kim was taken to the military training camp. He was forced to do weonsanpokgyeok' (maintaining one's body in an oval stance with his forehead and legs pushing the ground and with his hands holding each other around his back). He was beaten 50 strokes, sometimes even 150 strokes, a day.

After being brutally treated for 90 days, he was sentenced to three years in prison and he was transferred to the military prison. When he was beaten with his fists pushing the red bricks, the joints of his hands were often all skinned and his hands were bleeding.

Thus, Chang-Sik Kim was one of the many conscientious objectors who suffered brutal treatment and pain from soldiers who were biased toward patriotism.

Chun-Guk Jeong

(aged 55, Geumsan-gun, Chungcheongnam-do Province)

Chun-Guk Jeong, a Jehovah's Witness, refused military service in 1969 when he was 21 and was sentenced to 10 months in prison on the charge of evading military service.

He served that prison term, and again objected to military service in 1976 at the age of 26. He was then sentenced to one year and six months in prison, though the prosecutor demanded three years. He appealed, but the higher court then increased the sentence to three years.

On the very day he was released officials of the Military Manpower Administration were waiting for him at the gate of the prison with a warrant for conscription. In 1977, at the age of 29, Chun-Guk Jeong was taken by force to the military camp of the 32ndDivision, where he was told that the criminal record for objection to military service is not counted as a criminal record (according to the law a criminal record could free him from military service).' It also stipulated that high school graduates shall be conscripted by 31 December of the year when they become 28 years old and university graduates by 31December of the year when they become 30 years old.' Chun-Guk Jeong was considered a university graduate even though he had dropped out of university in the first year and was conscripted again. In addition, the Martial Court gave him a heavier sentence because of his previous criminal record, which had not been counted as a criminal record at the time of conscription. He was thus sentenced to four years in prison. While being in the military police jail, he was mistreated, for example by being forced to kneel down, being kicked with military boots on his chest, and hitting his head on the cement floor. They even poured water on his face from a pitcher.

After all, Chun-Guk Jeong lived for seven years and ten months in prison: Three years and ten months in prison for evading military service and four years in prison for mutiny. His imprisonment began when he was 21 and continued until he was 33. Now Chun- Guk Jeong, who was studying to become a doctor, is living as a farmer, having abandoned his cherished hope to study medicine.