For Immediate Release
April 20, 2005
Korean conscientious objectors no threat to security
SEOUL—On April 25 and 26 the Republic of Korea will host the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) for the conference “New Security Threats and a New Security Paradigm.” The conference will focus on evolving threats to global security, with the venue of South Korea selected because of its progressive strides in the area of human rights and international cooperation. Nonetheless a unique challenge faces this same country.
Even as the conference proceeds, in prisons around the country over 1,000 young men who are anything but a threat to global security are serving a minimum of 18 months in prison for their conscientious objection to military service.
The majority of these young men are Jehovah’s Witnesses, who do not want to be in prison, draining Korea’s resources but want to be active, productive, contributing members of their communities. They are willing to perform alternative civilian service if that option were available to them. The price they pay continues after their release, since they will have a criminal record limiting their employment opportunities and impairing their usefulness to society in the future. They obey secular authority provided this does not conflict with the Bible’s requirement to “beat their swords into plowshares,” to put away all weapons, and not to learn war anymore.—Isaiah 2:4; Romans 13:1.
South Korea is a signatory to United Nations Commission on Human Rights resolution 1989/59, which stated:
The Commission on Human Rights, . . . Recognizing that conscientious objection to military service derives from principles and reasons of conscience, including profound convictions, arising from religious, ethical, moral or similar motives,
1. Recognizes the right of everyone to have conscientious objections to military service as a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion as laid down in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
There are some 90,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in South Korea today, and they cherish their right to freedom of conscience and religion. The experience of a thousand young men currently in prison for refusing military service must be considered with over ten thousand Korean citizens who have suffered imprisonment for their religious conviction since 1939. South Korea alone has imprisoned more conscientious objectors in the last half century than any other country.
Contact: J. R. Brown, telephone: (718) 560-5600