South Korea to reform its military service
South Korea to reform its military service
  • Reporter Ryu Nu-ri
  • 승인 2018.09.19 20:39
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Alternatives for military service are coming up and the government is reducing the service period
Alternatives for military service are coming up and the government is reducing the service period

Alternative military service to be available in Korea from 2020
On July 28, Korea’s constitutional court ruled that the military service act article 5, which regulates the types of military service, is unconstitutional because it fails to offer alternative services. However, the court made sure that military service act article 88, which punishes any person who refuses to serve the military without justifiable grounds, is constitutional. The court demanded that article 5 should be revised until the end of 2019.

 Since South Korea has been technically in war with North Korea until now, the military did not offer any kind of alternative service to able-bodied men. Therefore conscientious objectors, who refuse to serve for the military or arm guns on religious or conscientious grounds, were punished by military service act article 88. Those who were prosecuted were weighed off by imprisonment for not more than three years. According to Amnesty International, around 19,300 people have gone to jail since 1953. Currently, around 570 conscientious objectors refuse their military duties annually and around 235 people are serving their sentence now in prison. Almost all of the conscientious objectors are Jehovah’s Witnesses.

 The Ministry of Defense said that they are making plans for the alternative services with the principle of preventing the alternative service from being abused as a means of dodging military service, securing equity with other military service, and not being punitive.

 Quite a few people demand that the alternative services should be removing mines. Although it poses significant risks but it is a high contribution to peace. It is not against the beliefs of religion or pacifism, but rather the removal of landmines contributes to such pacifism and peace. Also this might be able to sort out ‘fake’ conscientious objectors aimed at simply dodging military service. However, some people say that it would be a retaliatory move to make them engage in such dangerous jobs as mine removal when there is a lack of expertise. 

According to the DONG-A Daily, It was reported on July 23, that the alternative service offices of conscientious objectors were virtually confirmed as correctional institutions or prisons. The length of the alternative service is estimated to be 36 months long and only about 400 to 500 people will be able to serve the alternative service every year. Those who will serve the alternative will live and work together and their duties will be limited to simple auxiliary duties such as supply of goods.


The length of military service in Korea will gradually shorten
On July 27, Song Young-moo, Minister of National Defense, submitted the Defense Reform 2.0 plans to president Moon Jae-in and got the final approval. Therefore, the Ministry of National Defense will shorten the service period for those who are serving for the army and marine corps from 21 months to 18 months. The navy’s service period will also be shortened by 3 months, from 23 months to 20 months. However, the air force’s service period will only be shortened by 2 months, from 24 months to 22 months, because it has already been shortened by a month beforehand. Those who are discharged on Oct. 1st will be the first to experience the benefits of the shortened service period.

The service period will be shortened a day per two weeks. For instance, a soldier who joined the army at Jan. 3rd, 2017 was supposed to be discharged on Oct. 2nd, 2018. However, by the implementation of the shortened service period, he will be discharged on Oct. 1st. Therefore, those who apply for the army on June 15, 2020 will be discharged after serving the completely shortened period of 18 months.  

As good as this reform sounds, it might have some drawbacks. The Ministry of Defense said that as an alternative to the shortened service period and the reduction of troops it would gradually remove secondments (riot police officer, obligatory fire fighter, etc). For alternative services such as expert research personnel or industrial technical personnel the Ministry said that it would “reduce the numbers to the minimum.” Since quite a few male students of POSTECH wish to carry out their military duties as expert research personnel or industrial technical personnel, Postechians may have to face the consequences of the military reform too.