Wednesday, March 18, 2009
All South Korean male citizens are conscripted to perform military service for 2 years. While most people reluctantly succumb to the extreme state and social pressure to serve, a small but increasingly vocal number of individuals are choosing go to prison instead of joining the military. For adhering to their principles, they are punished with a prison sentence of a year and a half, a permanent criminal record, and social stigma. There is currently no alternative option given to those who object to serving in the military.
There are 450 objectors now in prison. Their reasons for objection are varied. While the majority of them have religious reasons (mostly Jehovah's witnesses) others have political or moral beliefs and are active in the peace movement that has been growing during the last several years in Korea.
Eun-gook (Eun-guk/은국), a traditional Korean medicine doctor, is one peace activist who declared his objection last February. His declaration was made during a press conference in Seoul on the day he was supposed to enlist.
In March 2003, Eun-guk was involved in one of the anti-war peace activist groups in Iraq where the United States proclaimed war and the Korean government decided to dispatch Korean soldiers. Since then, Eun-gook kept thinking about objecting to his conscription for the last 6 years.