SEOUL, Feb. 28 (Korea Bizwire) — The South Korean Supreme Court ruled last November that a person can conscientiously object to military service if it is indeed based on true conscience.
Now, conscientious objectors can be exempted from punishment for not serving in the military as long as they have ‘justifiable grounds’.
However, controversy still looms over the question of how to decide what is justifiable and what is not.
A new point of discussion has been raised recently by prosecutors that checking the usage log of certain online games can help resolve the issue.
While some argue that it is a stretch to decide on a person’s conscience based on a game, some say that it may be a good idea to assess the depth of one’s beliefs or level of violent thoughts or behavior.
The Ulsan District Prosecutors’ Office recently asked the court to look into the ‘gaming logs’ of eleven conscientious objectors currently being tried to see if their reasons for objecting to military service were justifiable.
The court accepted all eleven requests, and asked five game developers to disclose if and when the objectors played certain games, and how much they had played them.
As soon as it receives the logs from the developers, the court will share them with the prosecutor and defense for further deliberations.
The problem, however, is that game developers are only allowed to store information of each member for no more than six months, which makes it difficult to check if the objectors have deleted their accounts or haven’t logged in to the game for a long period of time.
“Battleground”, “Sudden Attack”, “Special Force”, “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4″, “Overwatch”, “Diablo”, “League of Legend”, and “Starcraft” were the eight games selected by Ulsan District Prosecutors’ Office for investigation.
All of them are first person shooters (FPS) or real time strategy games (RTS) that involve guns, knives, and other weapons.
The Ulsan District Prosecutors’ Office argued that the games can help understand the level of conscience among objectors since the purpose of these games is to kill the opponent in a user-to-user battle.
Ever since the Jeju District Prosecutors’ Office made a move last year to check the gaming logs of conscientious objectors for the very first time in the country, many showed concern that deciding on one’s conscience or level of violence based on gaming records was perhaps a stretch.
They argued that the prosecutors’ office is trying to taint one’s justifiable grounds by tapping into what could be one’s privacy.
Some argue that “Starcraft”, “League of Legends”, and other games among the selected eight hardly have anything to do with understanding one’s violent tendencies.
Human rights advocates are also criticizing the prosecutors’ office for ‘exploiting’ gaming records when the Supreme Court specifically ruled that justifiable grounds are based on the ‘overall lifestyle’ of the conscientious objector.
The Ulsan District Prosecutors’ Office believes that looking into violent game logs is important to decide upon the justifiable grounds for denying military service.
“The Supreme Court’s decision clearly stipulates that family background, school life, social experience, and other areas of what could be one’s privacy should all be checked,” said the Ulsan District Prosecutors’ Office.
“Conscience should not merely be a component of one’s life, but something that overrides all aspects in carrying out one’s lifestyle. In other words, a conscientious objector should not compromise his faith in any situations.”
The prosecutors’ office, in response to the accusations of privacy infringement, claimed that “it was the Supreme Court that decided to look into both the public and private sphere of life of the conscientious objector to decide upon whether the grounds for rejecting military service are indeed justified.”
“As long as there are no privacy leaks, there are no problems accessing the gaming records.”
The prosecutors’ office believes that it would be inconsistent for a person who enjoys playing games that involve killing or waging wars to reject military service or pick up arms based on religious faith.
According to the prosecutors’ office, a conscientious objector can be respected only when he demonstrates consistency in other fields of life, including online games.
Among religions that deny military training, some clearly warn against playing violent games, which adds up to the reasoning of the prosecutors’ office to look into the gaming records of the objectors.
“We do not intend to deny one’s conscience by pointing out one or two occasions of logging into a game based on curiosity,” said the Ulsan District Prosecutors’ Office.
“However, if the playing hours, frequency, and other factors all add up to make us believe that there are certain violent tendencies, we would be able to use it against the objector’s claim against military service.”
“There are many ordinary, non-religious citizens who also made sacrifices to serve in the military despite their opposition to war and picking up arms. That is why we need strict measures and standards in place to honor their decisions.”
H. M. Kang (firstname.lastname@example.org)