The past couple of months has brought about changes that few thought were possible. For the longest time, we hadn’t heard about any efforts to actually end the Korean war, let alone have the possibility that one day there could be 1 united Korea again. It’s yet to be seen how things will go, especially since it won’t be a straight dialog between the 2 Koreas, but the changes seemed to be welcomed by many. For most Koreans, they have only lived under a state of war and have never lived in a state where there was a united Korea. The official end of one of, if not the longest ongoing conflict at this time, would mean changes for everyone. But what are some of the biggest changes that we could/should see if/when this does happen. Here are a couple of changes that you may not be aware of but could cause a shift that would change the lives of many forever.
Possible Removal of the U.S. Military
Without the help of the U.S. military, Korea would probably be united under the rule of the North Korean regime. This would have drastically made life different for millions of people. However, the presence of the U.S. military has been a big deterrent to North Korean attacking South Korea. If North Korea does agree to end its nuclear program and is no longer the threat they are now, or even if major points could be reached so that there could be just a united Korea again, one would have to questions if the U.S. military presence would be needed in Korea at all. Some would argue that the answer would be yes, and pointing to the situation when East Germany merged with West Germany as an example of how this could work. However, there is no guarantee that Washington would feel the same way about this situation. Time will tell what happens.
Possible End of Conscientious Objectors Going to Prison
One of the most controversial subjects you probably haven’t heard about is the fact that hundreds of Korean men are put in prison each year for refusing military service. According to the Korean constitution, all men are to serve in the military. However, if someone has a strong moral conviction that does not permit them to go into the military, an alternative form of service to the nation can be done. Despite this, those who fall under the category of being a conscientious objector are often times sent to prison without any form of alternative service being offered to them.
While the treatment of such ones has gotten better over time, and more and more judges are starting to follow both Korean and international law by finding these men not guilty, this is still an ongoing issue in Korea. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others have commented on this situation that has had a longer history that most are aware of, even in Korea. (That will be its own article soon.) Some have estimated that as much as 90% of those currently imprisoned for being a conscientious objector are in South Korea. How the change in the relationship between North and South Korea will alter the lives of the young men currently on trial, in prison and those who have served in prison and are still paying for being a conscientious objector remains to be seen.
The upcoming week will be an exciting one, as well as one for the history books. Time will tell how things will look a year from now in Korea, but the world will be watching and hoping for the best for all that are involved.