The Supreme Court recognized Thursday religious and personal faiths to be valid reasons for refusing military service, and the Ministry of Defense is going to announce a plan on alternative services for the so-called conscientious objectors next week. The gist of the new proposal is for objectors of religious beliefs to serve at correctional facilities for 36 months, starting 2020.
In June, the Constitutional Court ruled Clause 5 of the Military Service Law, which does not recognize alternative service as a fulfillment of military duties, to be unconstitutional, and since then, the defense ministry has investigated cases from other countries and held hearings in a bid to find measures in conjunction with the Military Manpower Administration and the Ministry of Justice. The Constitutional Court asked the National Congress to legislate for alternative services by the end of next year.
The military has narrowed down the scope of venues for alternative service to correctional facilities and fire stations, and after reviews, prison has been winnowed out as final candidate. The length of service will be 36 months, twice as long as the mandatory military service as of the end of 2021.
“An optimum period has been calculated so as to prevent alterative services being abused as a means of draft dodging and to factor in the fairness with other types of alternative services such as research specialists and public health doctors,” a source said. Under the new scheme, objectors of military service will likely be assigned to assisting tasks that do not require special skills such as provision of supplies and administrative support in prison. A screening bureau will be installed either in the defense ministry or the Military Manpower Administration.
Once the defense ministry submits a revision specifying the type and the term of alternative service early next year, discussion at a legislative level will gain more traction. While the ruling and the opposition parties share a similar view on the period of service, which has been proposed to be 1.5 times to twice as long as the mandatory service, the two sides are split when it comes to the type of tasks to be allocated.
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