Support for Conscientious Objection

Indicator Description

  • A. Definition

    Public Opinion on conscientious objection to military service.

  • B. How to measure

    Percentage of respondents who answered that conscientious objection to military service should be maintained

    • The total number of respondents who answered 1) “totally agree” and 2) “agree” to the question, “Should conscientious objection be allowed?”
    • On January 4, 2019, the Ministry of Defense announced that it would use the term “Objection to military service for religious beliefs” instead of the term “conscientious objection” to alleviate public debate on the terms.
  • C. Features and Sources

    Category Sub-Category Sub-Subcategory Type of Indicator Reference Data Sources First year data available Periodicity
    Right to Freedom Fundamental Freedom Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion Subjective/Result National Human Rights Commission National Human Rights Commission of Korea 2005 5 years
  • D. Interpretation

    Conscientious objection refers to the act of refusing military service for religious beliefs or conscientious reasons. In the case of Korea, since it is a divided country and in a state of armistice, the army is being recruited through the system of conscription. In such a situation, some individuals have refused military service on the grounds of “freedom of conscience (religion).” However, in Korea, it is stipulated that the applicant shall be sentenced to imprisonment if he receives a notice of admission and does not enter the country without justifiable reason. Ever since the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, in December 2005, stated that individuals have a right to exercise religious conscientious objection and recommended the introduction of an alternative service system, controversy has arisen.
    Indicators show that only a small percentage of people surveyed in 2011 stated that they agreed with conscientious objection, while about half of the population in 2016 said we should accept conscientious objection. The number of 20- to 30-year-olds who responded “We should accept” was very high. The higher the age of the respondent, the more likely it was they would consider it unacceptable. This can be presumed to reflect a change in the idea that the younger the respondent, the greater their respect for the freedom of the individual to follow religious tenets. By gender, women were more likely than men to respond that they “accept” religious obligations, except for those in their 60s, or older, in 2011. To infer the cause, this appears likely to be based on the difference between men, who must comply with conscription, and women, who do not have such an obligation. Much debate still surrounds conscientious objection to military service, and the government is working to resolve the problem. In recent years there has been an ongoing discussion about how to implement an alternative service, with a corresponding change in the term “conscientious objection.”

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