SEOUL, Dec. 30 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korean men who refuse to fulfill their mandatory military service due to religious or personal beliefs will be allowed to serve three years of alternative duty at local correctional facilities starting next year, the defense ministry said Monday.
By law, all able-bodied South Korean men must carry out military service for about two years in a country that faces North Korea across one of the world’s most heavily fortified borders. Violators are punished with prison terms.
On Friday, the National Assembly passed a bill allowing conscientious objectors to do 36 months of alternative service, instead of joining the military.
The passage of the new law followed a landmark Constitutional ruling in 2018 that recognized the need for an alternative form of military service that does not involve the use of firearms or other weapons for those faith-based objectors.
Announcing the plan for the new program earlier, the ministry said it considered fairness vis-a-vis active duty service members and the prevention of exploitation of the new option to avoid conscription as among some key principles.
Meanwhile, monthly wages for rank-and-file soldiers will rise 33 percent on-year in 2020 in line with President Moon Jae-in’s campaign promise to increase the salaries of conscripts to half the minimum wage by 2022.
The salary of sergeants will be raised to 540,900 won (US$466), it said.