Nov 5, 2018

Potential draftees turning to Jehovah's Witnesses

Kim Hyun-bin
The Korea Times
November 6, 2018

The Supreme Court's ruling on conscientious objection to military service last week is bringing an "unexpected" side effect ― a growing interest in the Jehovah's Witnesses, a religion whose adherents refuse to perform the mandatory commitment.

Since the top court acquitted Oh Seung-hun, a Jehovah's Witness who refused to serve in the military, Thursday, questions on how to join the religion have been flooding internet portal sites.

In South Korea, all able-bodied men are required to serve in the military for at least 21 months as the country is technically at war with North Korea, but the ruling is believed to have paved the way for conscientious objectors, mostly Jehovah's Witnesses, to legally avoid military service. 

Many people are asking questions to beat the system by using the ruling.

"I am asking in a hurry because I can be exempt from military service. How can I register myself as a Jehovah's Witness?" a person wrote on a website. "Will I be exempt when I show a certificate showing I am a Jehovah's Witness at my military physical exam?"

Another online user also said he welcomed the Supreme Court ruling, hoping he could legitimately avoid military service by joining Jehovah's Witnesses. He later replied that the religion often stations recruiters near subway stations.

A woman also said she wants to raise her future son as a Jehovah's Witness.

In response, some university students who have not yet completed their military duty raise their voices against those trying to exploit the ruling.

"They are selling their conscience and religion to evade their mandatory military service. This is nonsense," a Yonsei University student surnamed Lim said.

On the other hand, Jehovah's Witnesses say there are obligations that need to be fulfilled to be part of the religion including spending 50 hours a week doing missionary work and not celebrating Christmas and other anniversaries. Someone caught violating the terms will have their religious status revoked. 

"There are other countries including Taiwan, where there are no cases of people registering as Jehovah's Witnesses to evade military service," said Park Jun-young, director of public relations for Jehovah's Witnesses. "The thought of more people joining the religion to evade military service is absurd."

No comments: