International Conscientious Objection Day


Every year, 15th May marks International Conscientious Objection Day (CO day) - a day to celebrate those who have, and those who continue, to resist war, especially by refusing to be part of military structures.

If you would like to take part in CO day, contact us.

US Forces have been stationed in the Republic of Korea (ROK) since 1950. Historicallyh, their main role was to deter any possible war threat posed by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). However, the USA's Global Posture Review changes the role of US Forces in Korea (USFK) from a stationary army on the Korean peninsula into a regional hub for rapid deployment and capable of pre-emptive strikes.

The Republic of Korea main­tains a strict conscription regi­me. Registration for conscrip­tion is automatic for men in the year they turn 18, followed by medical examination when they are 19. The duty to enlist in the Armed Forces lasts until the age of 31, but in case of draft evaders until 36.

The South Korean conscientious objection movement is still very young. It only dates back to the year 2000, when human rights organisations for the first time organised to highlight the fate of Jehovah's Witnesses, who had gone to prison for their conscientious objection since 1939. Since then, more than 10,000 Jehovah's Witnesses had gone to prison for their objection to military service, and many conscripts and also political prisoners had been aware of this, but it did not enter public consciousness. This changed in 2000, and in December 2001 a new movement for conscientious objection was born when Oh Tae-yang, a pacifist and Buddhist, declared his conscientious objection.


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Welcome to this edition of The Broken Rifle, focusing on the situ­ation of conscientious objectors in South Korea. This is not the first time War Resisters' International produced an issue on South Korea – the last time we did so was for Prisoners for Peace Day 2003. At that time, about 750 con­scientious objectors were serving prison sentences for their con­scientious objection.

by Dongjoo Ko

On 11 October 2005, I called the Military Manpower Administration and told them that I would not be enlisting. Instead a few days later, on 19 October, I announced my conscientious objection to the military through a press conference . My grounds for refusing the military were based on my conscience, Catholic faith and a firm belief that the military do not bring peace.

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