South Korean Man Jailed for Dodging Military Draft to Play PUBG
A South Korean man, known only as Mr.A, recently found himself sentenced for missing his active-duty service after receiving an enlistment notice in November 2018. His appeal, stating his refusal to enlist due to his personal beliefs against war and violence was dismissed by the court. This Supreme Court of South Korea conducted two separate trials, ultimately concluding concluded that they found it difficult to recognize the sincerity of his beliefs.
The most absurd part of this trial is the fact that this verdict was partly based on the defendant’s avid interest in playing Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). Let’s cut to the chase and figure out what the fuss is all about.
South Korean Man Receives 1 Year and 6 Months Prison Sentence for Breaching the Military Service Act
During the aforementioned trials, Mr.A expressed his refusal to enlist in active duty service due to his belief that he is against violence and war. He also added “military law is not human rights and there are many irrational aspects of military life” essentially stating that the South Korean military’s irrationality causes it to become a place of unfair orders.
The South Korean Supreme Court ruled out his appeal stating “Human rights violations and absurdities not only have no essential relationship with military training such as holding guns, but can appear in various forms depending on the unit and period of service, so it is difficult to consider them as grounds for conscientious objection to military service.”
This was based on the fact that the defendant Mr.A, has never participated in activities or joined communities related to non-violence, anti-war, pacifism, etc. This was also backed up by the defendant’s interest in PUBG, saying that he enjoyed playing a game where you kill your opponents with firearms. Considering this, the court mentioned that Mr.A’s beliefs are insufficient to deny the existence of this deep, true fact.
Following these assertions, the court stated that “there was no error in the original judgment in misunderstanding the legal principles regarding 'justifiable grounds' under Article 88, Paragraph 1 of the Military Service Act”. There were previous trials in South Korea where conscientious objectors claimed that it was absurd to use video games as a determining factor of an individual’s conscience and beliefs. This was backed up by stating that although movies, dramas, and novels contain War and other violent themes, only video games are used as a point of reference.
In December 2019, the National Assembly passed an amendment to the Military Service Act, proposing an alternate service for conscientious objectors. This implemented an Alternate Service Act in 2020, which makes it possible to fulfill the obligation of military service by transferring to other alternate services on grounds of freedom of conscience.
However, Article 3 of the Alternate Service Act states that anyone who wishes to serve as an Alternate Service Member must apply for the transfer to the Alternate Service Review Committee at least 5 days before the date of their enlistment. After submitting their application, a review process is carried out by the Military Manpower Administration to determine if the applicant is suitable to serve in the Alternate Service. Sadly, Mr.A failed to enlist within three days of the scheduled date without enrolling in the Alternate Service, due to which he was indicted by the prosecution on charges of evading military service.