Towns and cities throughout Britain today will hear calls for the immediate release of hundreds of people imprisoned in Korea for
refusing to fight. The call will be made at events to mark International Conscientious Objectors' Day (Tuesday 15 May).
Despite recent moves towards peace in the region, over 250 conscientious objectors remain in prison in South Korea. The number in North Korea is not known.
Conscientious objection is not recognised in either South or North Korea, despite an election promise from the current South Korean president to change this situation.
Major protests will be held on Tuesday in South Korea and around the world. Conscription is in force in over 60 countries worldwide, and has recently been reintroduced in Sweden. This year, International Conscientious Objectors' Day involves a global focus on Korean objectors in particular.
In the UK, a ceremony will be held at 12 noon in Tavistock Square, London WC1. Speakers will include Eritrean human rights activist Selam Kidane, who campaigns against conscription in Eritrea. Hannah Brock of War Resisters' International will bring greetings from anti-conscription campaigners in Korea. White flowers will be laid in memory of conscientious objectors past and present. Afterwards, postcards of protest will be delivered to the South Korean Embassy.
Meanwhile, ceremonies, protests and other events will be held in towns and cities including Edinburgh, Swansea, Bradford, Brighton, Cambridge, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Norwich and Sheffield. For the first time there will be an event in Dartmoor, where conscientious objectors were detained in the First World War.
The ceremony in London is organised by a range of peace campaigns, human rights organisations and faith groups who make up the First World War Peace Forum. In marking the 100th anniversary of World War One, they insist that the efforts of conscientious objectors and other war resisters are as relevant as ever in a world in which war remains commonplace.
Hannah Brock of War Resisters' International, who will speak at the ceremony in London, said: "South Korea imprisons more conscientious objectors than the rest of the world put together. Right now there are over 250 young people in jail, with sentences of 18 months. But the current President of South Korea pledged in his election manifesto to change this. We're urging people around the world to put pressure on him to stick to this promise."
Places in Britain that will host events to mark the day this year include Bradford, Brighton, Cambridge, Dartmoor, Edinburgh, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Norwich, Sheffield and Swansea. Most of these events are organised by local groups. Details of these events can be found at http://ppu.org.uk/coday/coday2018.html