Alternative service is a system in place in some countries which have mandatory military service. Alternative service enables people to work for social welfare organizations or undertake other duties instead of serving in the military. Performers of an alternative service have to serve for the same period of time as those who complete military service, or sometimes even longer. Also, they serve as social welfare agents, public service workers, or disaster relief workers.
Now, approximately 80 countries enforce compulsory military service, and almost 40 of these countries allow alternative service through their constitutions. Korean males are required to carry out military service according to the military service law if they are not eligible for special exclusion as regulated by the law. Therefore, until the 2000s, people who refused to serve in the military were punished according to the military service law. This started to change, and on May 21, 2004, the first not guilty verdict was passed regarding a defendant who refused to serve in the military because of his religious convictions and conscience. This judgment introduced Korea to the controversial issue of conscientious objectors, and disputes about the pros and cons of alternative service are still ongoing.
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea advised the Ministry of National Defense to establish alternative service in June 2017, and in August, the Ministry of Justice submitted a report to the UN containing details about the introduction of alternative service. Also, in April 2018, the Ministry of Justice made its draft of the 3rd National Action Plan (NAP) available to the public. In addition, the Ministry of Justice admitted that introducing alternative service immediately would be difficult and announced that after enough reviews, they would respond appropriately based on changes in security and social awareness. Today, three revisions of the military service law regarding the introduction of alternative service have been proposed to the National Assembly Defense Committee.
Jooeun Kwon, Jae Yoon Lee firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
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