International Conscientious Objectors' Day is observed around the world on 15th of May. It has been observed with nonviolent actions since 1986. This year the focus of the day is on South Korean conscientious objectors' (CO) poor human rights situation. International Conscientious Objectors' Day is organized by War Resisters' International (WRI) and its affiliated organizations. South Korea does not recognise the right to conscientious objection. Objectors to military service are sentenced to 18 months in prison. On March 31st , 458 COs were serving their sentences.
In 2006 the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) recommended that South Korea introduces the right to conscientious objection. In the case of two Korean conscientious objectors the UNHRC has clearly pointed out that the South Korean sentences violate article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
WRI and Korea Solidarity for Conscientious Objection (KSCO) will mark International Conscientious Objectors' Day with a non-violent demonstration in Seoul. The demonstration will take place between 12 and 2 pm at Insadong Bukinsamadang, and is a street theatre act. The performance displays the South Korean government's inaction on improving the situation of COs.
Members of the international CO movements will be partaking in the performance as a show of solidarity. People from Europe, Africa and Americas have arrived to South Korea for The Conscientious Objectors' Day. The previous South Korean government had announced preparations for a law recognising conscientious objection. After taking office in 2008, the new government abandoned the plans for a law.
Amnesty International, WRI and other human rights and peace organisations are demanding from South Korea to recognise the right to conscientious objection. In 2007 at least 936 and in 2008 at least 733 objectors were sentenced in the country. In total over 13000 COs have been imprisoned since 1939.
Despite the heavy international condemnation, South Korea continuously sentences all COs to prison. WRI and KSCO stress that COs are not criminals. The South Korean government violates international law and human rights by imprisoning conscientious objectors.
Andreas Speck, conscientious objection campaigning worker, WRI