Oct 4, 2015

South Korean Jehovah’s Witnesses Face Stigma of Not Serving in Army

CHOE SANG-HUN
NY Times
October 3, 2015

SEOUL, South Korea — Since he was a teenager, Kim Min-hwan knew he would have to make a choice: abandon his religious convictions or go to prison.

Mr. Kim is a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who for decades have faced jail terms as conscientious objectors under South Korea’s Military Service Act. Since his release from prison in 2013, Mr. Kim has found the stigma too great to find a meaningful job, though he was a chemical engineering major. He spends his days volunteering at the Jehovah’s Witnesses headquarters south of Seoul.

“I was predestined to become a convict because I believed in the creator,” Mr. Kim, 31, said in an interview. “I want South Korea to recognize that there are other, nonmilitary ways for us to serve the community.”

Over the years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have filed a series of appeals asking the Constitutional Court to rule that the Military Service Act violates the constitutional right to freedom of conscience and religion. Hopes for an end to their travails rose in July, when the court held a public hearing on multiple appeals only four years after it had rejected similar petitions. The court is likely to rule on the matter before the end of the year.
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/10/04/world/south-korean-jehovahs-witnesses-face-stigma-of-not-serving-in-army.html

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