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Arguments for conscientious objectors

2013-06-12 07:52
There has been much debate on the constitutionality of the punishment of conscientious objectors over the past decade. A conscientious objector is someone who claims the right to refuse to perform military service on the grounds of freedom of thought and religion. Many conscientious objectors have been placed in jail and some people insist that their punishment is reasonable. However, I think the punishments of conscientious objectors is unfair.

First, human rights are important. Not everyone thinks alike. Some people value keeping peace so they are disgusted by military service. We should respect their moral values. Conscientious objection is legal in many other countries like the U.S., France and Israel. Some people oppose conscientious objection because of the Korean War armistice in 1953, but Israel is also in a technical state of war. It means that other countries give a higher priority to human rights.

Second, such punishments have socioeconomic costs. In Korea conscientious objectors go to prison for 18 to 26 months, during which time they can’t work and it costs a lot of money to keep them in prison. If they didn’t go to prison and worked instead, social productivity would increase and socioeconomic costs would be reduced. Some conscientious objectors are forcibly drafted into the Army where they can cause harm to the military. They can go to an Army training center and disobey the orders of their superior during rifle training. Disobedience of orders is a serious violation of military codes and it demoralizes the forces.

Finally, the Korean government can introduce reasonable alternative services for conscientious objectors. It already made a draft bill of alternative services in 2007. If people choose an alternative service they may work at a tuberculosis hospital instead, for example. But it was shelved with the arrival of a new government in 2008. I think the government can make the bill more reasonable by extending the period of alternative service, which will help most people to approve of it.

By Lee Seong-heon, Student at KAIST