SOUTH KOREA: Conscientious objector Jihwan Ahn sentenced to 18 months imprisonment


War Resisters' International received information that South Korean conscientious objector and anarchist Jihwan Ahn was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment for conscientious objection on 17 February. He was arrested in court and transferred to prison.

In his declaration, he states:

"I see no reason - in a legal or even moral sense - to explain to you what is my standard of conscience and the very history of how this was reached, or the truthfulness of this conscience, while I declare that I refuse the military service, according to my own conscience. I am not saying this in a childish way, but it is in fact my conviction. So I enjoy climbing up on a mountain in the morning, or going to the beach when it's raining, taking a nap after lunch, and picking flowers from the field and putting it in a vase in my room - all these things you can freely do without permission. Not serving the military to me is just like that - a question of one's freedom. If someone tries to take that freedom away from me, it is that someone who needs to explain why they do it. It is not me who has to explain why I feel happiness when I pick a flower, or guilt while doing so, and all the other emotional exchanges and reasons why I like to display the flowers in a vase once I picked them."

"Today the main problem is that after my declaration the legal process will start from now on. Firstly, it is a problem to ask from someone who is conscientiously declaring that they prove their conscience, and secondly, it is a problem that there hasn't been enough debate to understand why the nation-state (or to say it nicely, the community) is taking someone's freedom away. This is basically a matter of violence of the nation-state."

Although South Korea has been reminded repeatedly by the United Nations Human Rights Committee that it should recognise the right to conscientious objection - both in Concluding Observations to state party reports, and in its jurisprudence on case of conscientious objectors from South Korea - it has so far not done so. A project by the former government to introduce the right to conscientious objection has been dropped by the present government.

In November 2010, 965 conscientious objectors were serving prison sentences, usually of 18 months. At present, in one of the CO cases an appeal to the Constitutional Court is pending. Nevertheless, the courts continue to send conscientious objectors to prison.

War Resisters' International calls for letters of support to conscientious objector Jiwahn Ahn:
Jihwan Ahn
P.O Box 164
Seoul, Republic of Korea

War Resisters' International calls for letters of protest to President Lee Myung-bak.
A protest email can be sent at

War Resisters' International calls for the immediate release of conscientious objector Jihwahn Ahn and all other imprisoned conscientious objectors.

Andreas Speck
War Resisters' International