An Analysis of the Debate over Conscientious Objection in Korea
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- An Analysis of the Debate over Conscientious Objection in Korea
- Mun, Soo-Hyun
- Freedom of conscience; conscientious objection in Korea; formation of the individual in Korea
- Issue Date
- KYUJANGGAK INST KOREAN STUD
- SEOUL JOURNAL OF KOREAN STUDIES, v.25, no.2, pp.243 - 274
- Although freedom of conscience, the legal foundation of conscientious objection, was incorporated into the South Korean Constitution in 1948, conscientious objection in Korea remained taboo until the late 1990s. The goal of this article is to illustrate how and why attitudes towards conscientious objection remained virtually unchanged in such a fast-moving society like that of Korea. Freedom of religion and conscience represent the central concepts of Western Constitutions and conscientious objection in the West is deeply rooted in the history of pacifist Christian churches there. However, Korean society had no ideological background or historical experience with respect to conscientious objection. The concept of conscientious objection was so foreign to the Korean people that there was no proper terminology for indicating such a notion; instead, terms such as jingjip geobu (refusal of conscription) or byeongyeok gipi (draft evasion) were used. Conscientious objection was perceived not as a human rights issue, but as a matter concerning a few particular Christian denominations, denominations largely deemed socially unacceptable by the Korean populace. In other words, the Korean debate on conscientious objection was framed as a confrontation between the Korean state and specific Christian denominations, particularly the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Seventh-Day Adventists, rather than as an issue of confrontation between individual citizens and the state.
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