The Korea Herald


Rights panel urges end to police conscription

By Korea Herald

Published : Oct. 25, 2011 - 15:52

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The National Human Rights Commission on Tuesday advised the administration to abolish police conscription and hire professional police officers to replace draftees.

It also advised the Ministry of National Defense to cooperate with the National Police Agency in replacing personnel. The panel recommended the Ministry of Public Administration and Security increase recruitment of police officers and that the Ministry of Strategy and Finance allocate sufficient funds for it.

According to the independent human rights watchdog, its human rights guidelines issued in 2007 and 2008 to strengthen monitoring and regulations on violence and excessive punishment among drafted police have not been applied. It said that it was therefore better to scrap the whole system than improve it.

“In the long term, the system had better be scrapped and replaced by professional police officers who understand their duties and perform better,” the commission said.

Police conscription is equivalent to mandatory military service. Young men drafted to the police serve 21 months and two weeks, and are assigned to such jobs as traffic control and dispersing protesters.

The system was scheduled to be abolished by 2013 but the Ministry of National Defense said it would abolish only the riot police draft. Instead, volunteers from the conscripted police will be assigned to the riot police, the authorities said. Observers said this meant the administration intended to maintain the system.

The National Police Agency are concerned that the abolishment will harm public security.

A slew of allegations about human rights violation among drafted policemen has brought public criticism.

The commission launched a series of investigations into the allegations earlier this year. They included the investigation of the death of a conscripted police officer in South Chungcheong Province after he was diagnosed with cancer, possibly due to stress; violence within Riot Police Unit 307 in Gangwon Province driving scores of officers to desert; and a conscript police officer’s suicide on the day he was due to return from vacation.

Rep. Lee Yoon-seok of the main opposition Democratic Party revealed last month that a total of 16 reports of violence in Gyeonggi Province draft police camps were made between January and August, about twice as many as last year.

Professor Kim Sang-kyun of Baekseok University said police conscription violates the Constitution.

“Those drafted are assigned to suppress even lawful protests and assembly, an act against their conscience,” he said at a seminar in April, calling for the abolishment of the system.

By Bae Ji-sook (