South Korea’s conscientious objectors escape military conscription

Feb 07, 2019

Now he has a choice

LIM JAE-SUNG is a mild-mannered lawyer in his thirties with a fondness for monogrammed shirts and human-rights cases. Owing to South Korea’s strict military-service laws, he is also a convicted criminal with a prison record. Mr Lim refused to serve in the army after becoming involved with the anti-war movement sparked by the dispatch of South Korean troops to Iraq in 2003. When a court sentenced him to a year and a half in jail, his parents kept it secret from their friends to avoid bringing shame on the family. He told his grandparents that he was going to spend some time in China. “It would have been too difficult to explain,” he says.

To future generations of South Korean men, Mr Lim’s story may come to sound like a quaint tale from the ancient past. In November the country’s Supreme Court ruled that it was not a crime to refuse military service for reasons of religion or...

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