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South Korean soldiers patrol the border on August 22, 2015 (illustration image). AFP PHOTO / YONHAP

South Korea will pardon nearly 2,000 conscientious objectors who refuse to do their military service. Despite recent attempts, relations are still strained between the north and south of the peninsula, and conscription is seen by Seoul as one of the keys to its defense.

Military service in South Korea can last up to 24 months, and since the end of the Second World War, hundreds of people who refuse to do so have been sentenced to prison terms, up to up to at 18 months.

It is a double penalty, since it is then difficult for these Koreans to find a job. First they are frowned upon by society, and then their prison sentence is entered in their criminal records.

The forgiveness that will benefit these 1,879 conscientious objectors also extends to their locker, to allow them a “ better return to society ”, explains the government.

"Alternative" military service

In addition, Seoul also sets up from 2020 a new service, this time civilian, for those who do not want to touch weapons for personal or religious reasons.

But according to Amnesty International , the social stigma will always be there, since during this “alternative” service the objectors will have to work in a prison or a correctional establishment. They will always be seen as coming out of prison, underlines the NGO, which notes that this service of 36 months will be the longest in the world.