South Korea is one of a very small number of countries that require all men to serve time in the military, but for the first time ever, men will be allowed complete community service instead of serving in the military.
A few days ago, South Korea’s Constitution Court ruled that Article 5 of the Military Service Act was unconstitutional because it didn’t offer any kind of alternative service.
“The state can no longer delay resolving this problem.” — South Korean Constitutional Court
The court’s ruling marks the first time that the country will allow conscientious objectors to do some kind of community service instead of the regular 2 years of military service. At the same time, the court also stated that any objections to serving or volunteering would be seen as a violation of the constitution.
The decision came after the entire system made international headlines when soccer fans begged for an exemption for Song Heung Min and Cho Hyun Woo. A petition soon circulated asking President Moon Jae In to exempt the two, as had previously been done for other star athletes like Olympic gold medalist Park Tae Hwan.
When someone is granted exemption they are still required to do four weeks of basic military training but will be placed on the reserve roster afterward.
This news is very welcome, especially to those who identify themselves as pacifists. Luckily, the Defense Ministry has also agreed to the court’s ruling and has not tried to make an appeal on the decision.
Previously those who refused to serve were imprisoned for up to three years and were often ostracized by the community after their release.
Right now, there have been no decisions on what type of volunteer work will be done, although some speculate that it could include working at a homeless shelter or hospital or even working as a firefighter or police officer. There have also been no clarifications as to who exactly would be eligible for the alternative.
“The ministry has been reviewing alternatives that cannot be abused by men wishing to avoid serving in the military.” — Defense Ministry
According to the new ruling, South Korea’s government and parliament have until the end of next year to revise the law and come up with their alternative plan.
So within the next year, we may see some even more exciting changes that could potentially influence the entertainment industry, giving everyone who loves K-Pop and K-Dramas some hope!
In May, an amendment to the Military Service Law made it impossible for those 28 and older to delay their service, as well as, putting travel restrictions on males 25 to 27-years-old. With this new ruling by the court, the travel restrictions may also come under investigation and we may even see some idols taking the community service avenue.