SOUTH KOREA: Conscientious objector Jungmin Oh sentenced to 18 months imprisonment


War Resisters' Internantional has been informed by Korea Solidarity for Conscientious Objection (KSCO) that conscientious objector Jungmin Oh has been sentenced to 18 months imprisonment in June. He was detained in court and is now serving his sentence.

In his CO declaration from January 2009, Jungmin Oh writes:
"To be liberated or to be incarcerated? It is an unavoidably acute question. The world we live in, at the global level, is constantly at war. Not surprisingly, as of the beginning of January 2009, we can see the war currently continuing in Gaza. The 20th century is remembered as an age of wars and presumably so will be the 21st."
"I was among the crowd protesting against the war in Iraq and the deployment of Korean troops. Despite our efforts, South Korean troops were sent. In the end, it was revealed that Iraq didn't have any weapons of mass destruction, which meant the US government was wrong. Notwithstanding, the South Korean government and the people who supported the government's decision neither apologised for their lie nor took any responsibility for the result - an absolutely intolerable reaction.
I believe the armed forces are simply just one of national institutions whose reason for existence is to prepare for wars. The armed forces always prepare for a war, even when there is no war. Hence, the military is by no means 'an organisation which prevents a war'. In fact, it is an organisation that makes war. I do not find any reason for which I ought to do my military service in this kind of armed force. Refusing to be called up follows ineluctably from my determination to liberate myself instead of living imprisoned as a human being living in a so-called 'the age of war'."

According to KSCO, more than 400 conscientious objectors are presently imprisoned in South Korea.

In January 2007, the United Nations Human Rights Committee recognised the right to conscientious objection as a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, as guaranteed by Article 18 ICCPR. In fact, in this decision on two cases of conscientious objectors from South Korea, the Human Rights Committee stated that not to provide for the right to conscientious objection is a violation of Article 18 ICCPR (see CCPR/C/88/D/1321-1322/2004 from 23 January 2007).

However, the South Korean government has so far not introduced a law recognising the right to conscientious objection. Meanwhile, 500 individual complaints are pending at the Human Rights Committee.

War Resisters' International call for letters of support to Jungmin Oh:
Jungmin Oh(2572)
Gunpo P.O.Box NO.20,
Gunpo-si, Gyeonggi-do
South Korea

War Resisters' International calls for letters of protest to South Korea's president Lee Myung-bak. A protest email can be sent at /node/8014.

War Resisters' International calls for the immediate release of Jungmin Oh and all other imprisoned conscientious objectors.

Andreas Speck
War Resisters' International