Korea, South

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In June 2018, South Korea's Constitutional Court made a landmark ruling recognising conscientious objection. In its ruling, the Court obligated lawmakers to change the law accordingly and initiate alternative civilian service for conscientious objectors by the end of 2019. After more than a year since the ruling, the National Assembly is still reviewing the proposed bills on alternative civilian service.

South Korea’s Ministry of Defense proposed a system for alternative service to the military on Dec. 28, following a historic decision by the Constitutional Court in June, which ruled that the existing law does not guarantee freedom of conscience. The court’s decision —which was a major victory for the movement to recognize conscientious objection in South Korea — has sparked a fierce debate over the issue. There have been tangible achievements, such as the Supreme Court finding a conscientious objector to be innocent for the first time ever on Nov. 1. However, the struggle over how the alternative service system will work is just beginning.

Last Thursday, in a landmark decision, South Korea’s Constitutional Court ordered the government to introduce alternative service of a civilian nature for conscientious objectors. The court ruled that Article 5 of the Military Service Act (MSA), which fails to provide alternative forms of national service, is unconstitutional and obligated lawmakers to change the law by the end of 2019.

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