SEOUL, Jan. 17 (Korea Bizwire) — The government has allowed a convicted conscientious objector to replace his military service duty with an alternative service for the first time, a decision suggesting a softening of the government’s stance on the issue.
Jeong Wook, who was sentenced to a one-year jail term for draft dodging and served nine months before being released on parole, was notified earlier this month of the Military Manpower Administration’s decision to accept his application for alternative military service, according to sources.
The decision made the 31-year-old the first convicted conscientious objector allowed to do alternative military service instead of military draft.
Since late 2020, the country has operated an alternative military service system, allowing young men to replace their 21-month mandatory military service with an alternative three-year service for the state, on grounds of religious or personal beliefs.
Currently, 648 young men are doing alternative services at detention centers and correctional facilities nationwide, but no one who was convicted of draft dodging on grounds of religious or pacifist beliefs had been allowed to replace their military service with alternative service.
Despite serving a prison sentence, he still had to fulfill his military duty because exemptions are allowed only for those who were sentenced to prison terms of at least 1 1/2 years.
Jeong is expected to start his three-year alternative service possibly in the first half of this year.
“I believe under any circumstances killing should not be justified. I object to military service because military exercises and holding a gun are equivalent to training for killing,” Jeong told Yonhap News Agency.
“I wish people who are hesitant about military service could be encouraged by this decision to apply for alternative services,” he added.