By Kim Rahn
The number of people who have refused to do compulsory military service because of their religious beliefs reached 5,000 since 2000.
The Military Manpower Administration said Thursday that 4,958 men have objected to serve in the army as of Oct. 31 since 2000, saying the number will surpass 5,000 when including figures for November and December.
Among the people, 4,925 were Jehovah's Witnesses and three, Buddhists. Another 30 refused the mandatory service because of conscientious objections other than religious reasons.
Until 2000, such objectors were forced to enter the army and sentenced to three years in jail for disobedience. Since 2001, they are not forcibly enrolled but get 18 to 26 months in prison for draft dodging.
According to the administration, 83 countries have a conscription system. Of them, 31 recognize the right to conscientious objection, and 20 among them, such as Greece, Norway, Taiwan, Germany, Russia and Poland, have alternative services to military duties.
A public survey on 2,000 adults in November showed that 68.1 percent objected to allowing conscientious objectors to perform alternative services. The Ministry of Defense also said implementing an alternative system was premature.