South Korea to pardon 1,800 conscientious objectors

South Korea will grant pardons to 1,879 men who refused to do military service for religious or personal reasons.

It comes after a court last year recognised “conscience or religious beliefs” as a justifiable reason to turn down military service.

All able-bodied men in South Korea are required to serve for up to 24 months by the time they are 28.

Conscientious objectors faced 18 months in prison and often struggled to find employment.

One objector who is on parole will be exempt from the remaining penalty.

All the others have already been freed, and the pardon allows them to correct their criminal records.

Rights groups say conscientious objectors face social stigma in Korea – and struggle to find employment after their jail sentence.

An “alternative” non-military service – lasting three years and taking place in prisons or “correctional facilities” – is being introduced next year.

Monday’s announcement was the third round of special pardons since President Moon Jae-in was elected in 2017.

More than 5,000 people were pardoned in total, including 267 who breached election law, and three political and labour activists, the justice ministry said.

The government said the move would help convicts return to society.


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