There were reports of abuses of religious freedom in the country, including religious prisoners and detainees.
Most conscientious objectors were sentenced to one year and six months in prison. Watchtower International, a Jehovah’s Witnesses organization, reported that as of the end of the year there were approximately 761 members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses serving an average of 18 months in prison for conscientious objection to military service. At the end of 2010, there were approximately 903 members in prison. During the year, the number of imprisoned conscientious objectors peaked in January at 846 and dropped to 732 in June. This number rose sharply since 2009 when approximately 400-500 conscientious objectors were in prison. Watchtower attributed the rise in the number of those imprisoned to the decision that was made by a number of conscientious objectors to delay their prison terms in hopes that the Ministry of National Defense (MND) would introduce an alternative service system for conscientious objectors. Late in 2009, the MND decided not to pursue the introduction of an alternative service system for conscientious objectors. Since the announcement of the decision, the number of conscientious objectors in prison has increased significantly.
Watchtower International reported that as of the end of the year, there were 155 conscientious objector cases on appeal in the Supreme Court and 15 cases before the Constitutional Court, two of which involved reservists. The last relevant constitutional court rulings, one in 2004 and another issued during the reporting period, upheld the law. In 2004, the Constitutional Court upheld the Military Service Act as constitutional. During the reporting period, the court found both the Military Service Act and the Homeland Reserve Forces Act to be constitutional.
Persons who complete their military service obligation and subsequently become conscientious objectors are subject to fines for not participating in mandatory reserve duty exercises. Reserve duty obligation lasts for eight years, and there are several reserve duty exercises per year. The fine varies depending on jurisdiction, but typically individuals are fined an average of 200,000 Korean won (KRW) ($166) for the first conviction. Fines are increased by 100,000 – 300,000 KRW ($83-249) for each subsequent conviction. The law puts a ceiling on the fine at two million KRW ($1,660) per conviction. Courts have the option, instead of levying fines, to sentence individuals deemed to be habitual offenders to prison terms or suspended prison terms.
Watchtower reported that since 1990, courts have sentenced 20 conscientious objectors to prison terms or suspended prison terms for failing to participate in reserve duty exercises. An additional 60 Jehovah’s Witnesses were in litigation related to being conscientious objectors.