SEOUL, Aug. 23 (Korea Bizwire) — The South Korean government has submitted a human rights review report to the United Nations, making known its intention to discuss possible alternatives to the country’s mandatory military service for conscientious objectors on religious grounds.
According to the Ministry of Justice on Tuesday, South Korea’s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) drawn up by 12 government branches and organizations was filed with the UN on Tuesday, in which the government expressed its intent to look into ways to replace conscription for those who oppose serving in the military for religious reasons.
“We plan to discuss the issue in depth based on understanding from the public. The Constitutional Court of Korea has held a public hearing and legislative bills related to the issue have been proposed at the National Assembly, while branches responsible for the issue are conducting surveys to engage more Koreans in public discourse,” the report said.
The third UPR report — a process that requires a periodic review of human rights records of member states every four and a half years — encompasses records of progress and changes made after the government took into consideration a total of 70 recommendations from the UN and opinions from civil societies since October 2012, when the second UPR was assessed.
The texts included in the report regarding the issue of conscientious objection suggest progress has been made compared to the first draft of the report released earlier this month, which said, “As it is hard to accept (conscientious objection) immediately, we plan to come up with measures in the future based on national security situations and societal acceptance.”
The report also says some reform bills have been put in motion to discuss the need to amend Clause 6 of Article 92 in the South Korean military’s criminal code, which has been accused of justifying hatred and discrimination.
However, the report also reiterated the government’s current stance on the issue that it has not been ruled unconstitutional on many occasions by the constitutional court due to the unique nature of communal living prevalent in the military.
The government also said it is carefully contemplating the idea of abolishing capital punishment, while responding to worries over threats to freedom of expression posed by the country’s national security laws by confirming that legal abuse will be prohibited by strict legal interpretation.
The evaluation meeting of South Korea’s third UPR report will be held in Geneva, Switzerland in November.
Hyunsu Yim (email@example.com)