Alternative Military Services Planned
Conscientious Objectors to Get Non-Armed Services for 36 Months
By Yoon Won-sup
The government decided Tuesday to allow conscientious objectors against mandatory military service to conduct alternative services such as caring for the disabled, instead of imprisoning them.
The alternate service term will be 36 months compared to the 24 months of military service, which will be shortened to 18 months in 2014.
The Ministry of National Defense said an average of 750 people annually are prosecuted because they object to performing military service for conscientious or religions reasons. They will be eligible to undertake alternative services to respect their human rights.
The current laws requires all healthy men to fulfill mandatory military service for 24, 26 or 27 months in the Army, Navy or Air Force, respectively.
``The plan is designed to give other options to conscientious objectors other than incurring criminal punishment,'' it said.
The ministry plans to make the social service come under strict labor conditions and impose a longer term for the objectors in order to secure fairness in the alternative conscription system.
``The areas for alternative services are ones requiring very demanding work such as assisting the handicapped or patients with Alzheimer's disease,'' it said.
However, active servicemen will not be allowed to cease military service and join the alternative service. Only those who declare their objection to military service before commencing training are entitled to apply for the option.
Alternative servicemen will work in such remote areas as Sorokdo National Hospital, a facility to treat Hansen's disease on Sorok Island, South Jeolla Province; the Masan National Tuberculosis Hospital in South Gyeongsang Province; and hundreds of nursing homes for the elderly.
Those opting for social welfare will be under the close scrutiny of the Military Manpower Administration. Anyone neglecting the service will be dismissed and face criminal charges
Meanwhile, some conservatives expressed their opposition to the alternate services.
The Korea Veterans Association said in a statement that the decision shakes the conscription system, causing unfairness to so many people serving in the military.
``It is premature to introduce the service as the two Koreas are technically still at war,'' the association said.