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  Letters to the Editor
S. Korea's Stand on Conscientious Objectors
S. Korean soldiers patrollig the DMZ (demilitarized zone) area. In S. Korea all the males are subject to compulsory military service.

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Alexis Evanoff. I am a 25 year old woman from Southern California. I am writing you because I wanted to let you know about something that is going on over here in America regarding the Republic of Korea's stand on conscientious objectors.

I have a friend from Korea who I met while he was out here going to school on a student visa. His name is Adam Yoon. He recently finished his Master's degree out here in International Business and then had to go back to Korea. He was immediately drafted. The problem is, Adam does not believe in going to war and is a conscientious objector and is one of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Out here in America his friends were shocked to learn that this means he will have to go to court and inevitably end up doing prison time for his stand. This was especially disturbing once we learned that once he is released from prison he will not be able to find work for 5 years because of his "criminal record." The reason all of this is so frustrating to us is that the Republic of Korea is a member of the United Nations. We are well aware of the fact that as such the government is supposed to provide alternative non-military service to conscientious objectors of war. However, we have discovered that no such provision exists. We are very disappointed. So, we have written a letter to the courts and government of the Republic of Korea requesting that they live up to their responsibilities as a member of the UN and signed it and sent it to Adam to take with him to his hearing which happened last week in May. His verdict will be read this Friday, June 9th. We don't know what will happen. Adam has faced all of this with a great deal of composure and bravery that encourages us here who have never had to face such a thing.

I have a copy of the letter we have written and signed and I will include it in the body of this email at the end of this letter. I also have one of the signed copies of the letter. To my knowledge, at least 3 signed copies were made. Unfortunately the one I have in my possession has the least amount of signatures- only 14. The other letters have more.

A growing number of people here have become aware of this particular aspect of the Republic of Korea's negligence to live up to its responsibilities as a member of the UN and to its own constitution which provides the right for freedom of conscience. Aside from us, I know that Amnesty International is aware of what is going on and I also have sent them a copy of the information regarding Adam Yoon and his story. As more of us are becoming aware of the situation, we respectfully desire that the Korean government know that we are here and are requesting for things to change.

I have a website page with a picture of Adam and my personal version of the story to view (and take the picture from if you so desire) at http://www.flickr.com/photos/notfamousyet/140739644/ I also have a badly, but legibly scanned copy of the petition letter with signatures which I can provide at your request. Unfortunately, it is the copy with only 14 signatures on it. I can always get more though; I just didn't have that much time when I was initially looking for people to sign it.

If you have any questions my contact email is azadiproductions@yahoo.com. Adam Yoon's email is youngadam9876@yahoo.com.

If there is any way I, or any of the rest of us, can further help to help you get this story out there please email me, or I can send you the addresses of my other friends who are working on this, one of them whom is a journalist in New York City.

Thank you so much for your time,
Alexis Evanoff
azadiproductions@yahoo.com

(The following is the letter we sent to the Court. If you would like to see the copy that has the signatures, please email me.)

To Whom It May Concern:

With all due respect to the officials and peoples of the Republic of Korea, we are writing this letter, quite frankly, to express our shock and concern over the situation facing our friend Adam Yoon regarding the issue of conscientious objection. In the Republic of Korea it seems that this issue has not yet been resolved, since he still is facing a possible prison sentence instead of being able to do alternative service. As his friends, we strongly request and urge you to find him not guilty.

With humbled hands we, friends of Adam Yoon, take pen to paper to compose this letter to convey our utter shock and deep concern over the most distressing dilemma facing our friend Adam Yoon. In regards to the precious issue of conscientious objection in the Republic of Korea which is yet to be resolved, our friend faces a possible prison sentence instead of being given the liberty to choose to do alternative service. As loyal friends of his we beseech you to find him not guilty.

As conscientious citizens of the world we understand the pressing situation in regards to the struggle between North and South Korea. And as citizens of America, we recognize and regard our right to freedom of conscience as a human right and one granted by the United States of America in which we live. Because this freedom of conscience is vital to our existence and to Adam's we write you. In America, even existing members of the military who develop a "firm, fixed, and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or the bearing of arms," (Department of Defense Directive [U.S.]) based on moral, ethical, or religious beliefs, are entitled to discharge from the military or transfer to non-combatant status. And as clearly stated in United States of America's Military Selective Service Act (which is what outlines the regulations for America's military draft), "Nothing contained in this title shall be construed to require any person to be subject to combatant training and service in the armed forces of the United States who, by reason of religious training and belief, is conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form." Section 6(j).

Adam Yoon deserves the right to participate as a member of society regardless of his conscientious stand. During times of conflict in the United States the stance of conscientious objectors is recognized as valid and does not make them unfit to participate as a member of society. They are accepted as useful and productive members of society in the United States. Conscientious objectors opposed to serving in the military are placed in the Selective Service Alternative Service Program. This program attempts to match conscientious objectors with local employers. Many types of jobs are available, however the job must be deemed to make a meaningful contribution to the maintenance of the national health, safety, and interest. Examples of Alternative Service are jobs in conservation, caring for the very young or very old, education and health care.

Length of service in the program will equal the amount of time a man would have served in the military, usually 24 months. If the Republic of Korea were to adopt a similar system, it would be very useful to the country as it has been here in America. Especially considering the alternative is to put useful citizens in prison where they cannot work to further the economy or better society.

We are aware of the fact that the National Human Rights Commission of Korea advised that the government take on a system of alternative service for conscientious objectors on December 26, 2005 which, at the time, the government looked upon favorably. Where is this system and will it be available soon? We have knowledge that the Constitution of the Republic of Korea ensures its citizens freedom of conscience. We are ready to see this freedom enforced.

When Adam Yoon informed his friends that he would be going back to Korea to face imprisonment, some of his friends tried to persuade him not to go. Adam Yoon, though, insisted upon going back to show respect for the laws of the Republic of Korea since he does wish to do his best to be dutiful and honest citizen. Is it really correct to put such a principled, respectable, and trustworthy citizen in jail?

In conclusion, with humble hands we petition the court to declare Adam Yoon not guilty and that the Legislature and the Ministry of National Defense arrange an alternative to military service.

We appreciate the government of the Republic of Korea and all officials concerned for listening to our request.

Sincerely,



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