By Lee Hyo-jin
A local court convicted a man in his 20s, who had claimed to be a conscientious objector, for violating the Military Services Act, Wednesday, after he was found to have often played online war games and to have never expressed political or philosophical views against the nation's mandatory military service.
A judge at the Seoul Eastern District Court sentenced him to 18 months in prison for refusing to enlist in the army because of his "strong beliefs."
The man received an enlistment notice in October 2018, and was ordered to enter a military camp in Yanggu, Gangwon Province, the following month; but he failed to show up.
The defendant claimed he had refused to join the armed forces because he objects to violence and war. However, the court did not accept this excuse.
"The defendant had already postponed his mandatory military service several times in the past without expressing any personal belief or faith. The reasons were studying for the college entrance exam, college education and state examination," Judge Cho Guk-in said in his ruling.
"Also, he has admitted that he enjoys playing online war games, in which the player shoots and kills other characters using various weapons. This casts doubt about his personal belief that he opposes violence and war."
All able-bodied Korean men between the ages of 18 and 35 must complete around 20 months of military service. Those who refuse can be sentenced up to three years in jail under the Military Service Act.
After the Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that religious and conscientious beliefs were justifiable reasons to refuse mandatory military service, the government and lawmakers plan to offer alternative services, such as working in prisons, for those who are able to verify the sincerity of their beliefs.