CHUNCHEON — In the midst of hot social debate going on since the Seoul Southern District Court acquitted “conscientious objectors” who refused to serve compulsory military duties, some local court decisions are stirring controversy over the inconsistency of court rulings on similar cases.
Chuncheon District Court sentenced on Friday a Jehovah’s Witness, who had been arrested in April, to serve a year and six months in prison for refusing mandatory military conscription. The court said in its ruling that religious conviction cannot be seen as a reasonable ground for refusing military duties. Chonju police also arrested another Jehovah’s Witness on Thursday.
On the other hand, Suwon District Court judge Min Byong-hoon turned down police request for an arrest warrant for a Jehovah’s Witness who refused to join the military due to religious convictions. The court gave the reason as to why it has dismissed the police request saying that there is no reason to be anxious about the accused since he lives in a fixed residence and has no reason to either stifle evidence or flee to avoid his military duty. Earlier, Seoul Southern District Court judge Lee Chong-yol handed down a “not guilty” verdict on May 21 to a conscientious objector saying that because his refusal to do his compulsory military duty was purely for conscience’s sake, the accused has every right to be protected by the Constitution, which reasonably protects individual conscience.
Lee also said that freedom of conscience in the Constitution not only provides freedom of an individual from compulsion by the government to do certain acts that require an individual’s moral judgment but also includes freedom to keep silent about his moral decisions.