S Korea to investigate whether conscientious objectors played violent video games

A South Korean soldier looks at ribbons with inscriptions calling for peace and reunification displayed on a military fence near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas in the border city of Paju on January 1, 2019.

Seoul (CNN)Do you enjoy playing violent video games? Then you can't avoid military service.

That appears to be the message South Korea is sending conscientious objectors. Prosecutors said they were investigating whether a number of men seeking exemption from military service played "online shooting games" in the past.
"We need to verify their genuine faith. So we need to examine their personal life," an official with the prosecutors office on the southern island of Jeju told CNN. "We check whether they had been attending (religious) service. Checking their history with shooting games is another method."
    Around a dozen men are currently facing hearings to determine whether they can claim conscientious objector status in the wake of a landmark Supreme Court ruling in November ending South Korea's position as the world's leading jailer of those who refuse to join the armed forces.
    "Refusing to enter the military due to a religious faith which forbids bearing arms is considered a justified reason to refuse duty," the court said in its ruling. "Therefore it cannot be criminally punished."
    Oh Seung-hun (C), a Jehovah's Witness, speaks to the media after a court's verdict to overturn his conviction on refusing to do mandatory military service, at the supreme court in Seoul on November 1, 2018.
    That ruling came after a decades-long fight by conscientious objectors, many of them Jehovah's Witnesses, to push back against the country's stringent military service law, under which all men between the ages of 18 and 35 are required to perform at least 21 months of service in the South Korean armed forces.
    Since then, however, conservative politicians and prosecutors have attempted to get around the court's ruling, by, for example, requiring conscientious objectors to carry out more stringent -- and potentially more dangerous -- forms of non-military service.
    Following an earlier ruling by a constitutional court ordering the government to provide alternate ways to serve for objectors, the right-wing Liberty Korea Party put forward a bill to force objectors to perform 44 months -- double the usual length -- of service, including mine sweeping and other dangerous activities.
    "This is a form of retaliatory punishment against conscientious objectors that is anachronistic and in violation of human rights," South Korea's Hankyoreh newspaper said in an editorial at the time.