South Korea: Anarchist Sentenced to 18 Months for Conscientious Objection


May 19, 2011 by Tariq Khan

From the War on Society blog:
by Gabriella Segata Antolini

A young anarchist from South Korea, Ahn Jihwan, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for the conscientious objection on February 17th of this year in Seoul. Now he is imprisoned in Youngdenpo and should be released in August 2012. Jihwan received the 18 months for rejecting the mandatory military service.

Letters of support to Jiwahn Ahn can be sent to this address:

Jihwan Ahn


P.O Box 164

Seoul, Republic of Korea

To read his statement (in Spanish) follow this link:

9 thoughts on “South Korea: Anarchist Sentenced to 18 Months for Conscientious Objection

  1. Do You Like Worms? says:

    well i’m pretty sure Ahn Jihwan is a guy considering that conscription in South Korea is for males only. Also unless you’re dead set on sticking it to “cultural imperialism” you can read his declaration in english here . In any case i’m not terribly sympathetic because South Korea has some really legitimate security concerns (North Korea) but at least his stay in prison won’t be longer than the mandatory military service.. it’s almost a fair trade..

  2. Robert Poort says:

    I’m learning more about the subject as we go.
    Found some good background information at:

    Click to access KukCho.pdf

    And I want to ask the obvious question – which has an obvious answer – how about all those young latter-day saints in South Korea who are honoring and obeying the law? Are they aware of the principles of Pacifism in relation to the gospel? Talk to MormonGandhi !

    • tariq says:

      I used to one of those young Latter-day Saints in South Korea honoring and obeying the law. I was stationed in South Korea for a year when I was in the military. To answer your question; at least when I was there, no, we were not aware of any kind of principles of pacifism in relation to the Gospel. I was, however, impressed by a Branch President over there. He was a Vietnam veteran who had been a member one of the early Navy SEAL teams, but, like many Vietnam vets I’ve met, he seemed to be very saddened by war and militarism in general.

      One thing that impressed me about him was a prayer I heard him give. You have to understand that the military was teaching us that North Koreans were our enemy, and to be careful not to be tricked by North Korean spies off-base, and North Koreans are bad, and blah blah blah, North Korea equals enemy, blah blah blah. I went to Church and this big, tough-looking, Vietnam-vet, ex-Navy Seal Branch President approached the podium to offer a prayer, and he said something that I had never heard anyone say before. He prayed for God to take care of, look after, and bless “our brothers and sisters in the North.” He didn’t say, “please protect us from our enemies in the North,” or “please help up to defeat our enemies in the North,” or “please help us be victorious soldiers,” or anything like that. He referred to North Koreans as “our brothers and sisters,” and he prayed for blessings to be bestowed on them. To anyone reading this, that might not seem like a big deal, but to me at the time it hit me hard, in a good way. It was a completely different way of thinking than anything the military or the Church up until that point had exposed me to, and to this day, I still respect and appreciate that Branch President. He was a good, Christ-like man.

  3. tariq says:

    Worms, yes, he is a man. Somewhere along the line in translating from Korean to Spanish to English, the “he” got changed to a “she”, so I just corrected it. I should have done that before I posted it. Sorry everyone. Yes, you are right, in South Korea conscription is for males only. As for South Korea’s legitimate security concerns, well, every country has legitimate security concerns, but do those security concerns trump an individual’s right to own him/herself? Conscription is one of the State’s ways of telling the individual, “I own you, your life belongs to me!” You can’t say you believe in individual rights if you don’t oppose mandatory military service. To volunteer is one thing, but to be forced to be a soldier against your will and against your beliefs? And to be imprisoned for claiming that you are your own person, not state property? I thought that right-wing guys like you were all about individual rights. And no, I am not trying to “stick it to cultural imperialism”. Thank you for the link to his statement in English. Here it is for those who are interested (although I suspect that some of what he is trying to say here is also getting lost in translation):

    Ah! Today as an Anarchist I refuse to fulfill my duty to the nation-state.

    A human being turns into its true self from the moment it WANTS to become something. I wanted to become an anarchist ever since I was young. This is not because I was impressed by a new kind of Western knowledge and wanted to follow it, but it was the outcome of looking for my own goodness, during which I found a lot of similar ideas amongst those anarchists that have existed before me. If someone were to ask me what my ideals are – to be able to answer that without complexity I am borrowing the mask of anarchism. Even though the word itself is not enough to explain a lot of things that I don’t want to explain to you, the reason why I am introducing myself as an anarchist is NOT to run away from the responsibility of my own word. To put it simply, yes, it IS ridiculous to label myself an anarchist, or not just simply ridiculous… But if you start probing me what this anarchism is that I am talking about, our conversation will have to go on and on, because this is clearly not a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ type of question… In spite of all that, to repeat it once more, defining myself as an anarchist is like the attempt of a person who is walking in a snow covered field, and who is trying to find a star in the sky that will guide you in the right direction.
    That’s why, to speak clearly, before even being an anarchist, I am a free being. Or to rephrase that, I – as a human being – am declaring that I am not going to do what I do not want to do. And in doing that, the sanctions of you people and the government will start from now on, and even if I do not want to fight back, at the same time it is anarchism that I will need to use as a shield for myself in this struggle.

    I see no reason – in a legal or even moral sense – to explain to you what is my standard of conscience and the very history of how this was reached, or the truthfulness of this conscience, while I declare that I refuse the military service, according to my own conscience. I am not saying this in a childish way, but it is in fact my conviction. So I enjoy climbing up on a mountain in the morning, or going to the beach when it’s raining, taking a nap after lunch, and picking flowers from the field and putting it in a vase in my room – all these things you can freely do without permission. Not serving the military to me is just like that – a question of one’s freedom. If someone tries to take that freedom away from me, it is that someone who needs to explain why they do it. It is not me who has to explain why I feel happiness when I pick a flower, or guilt while doing so, and all the other emotional exchanges and reasons why I like to display the flowers in a vase once I picked them.

    “Today the main problem is that after my declaration the legal process will start from now on. Firstly, it is a problem to ask from someone who is conscientiously declaring that they prove their conscience, and secondly, it is a problem that there hasn’t been enough debate to understand why the nation-state (or to say it nicely, the community) is taking someone’s freedom away. This is basically a matter of violence of the nation-state.


    [2] My Anarchism

    So far, I have not been trying to argue that this form of democracy – that of an indirectly ruled democracy – is going to give the world justice and equality. But my position is that I cannot acknowledge the sacrifice that the indirect democracy is asking for. Even if indirect democracy only exists on a very utopian level, it is at the same time based on a very real majority voting system of decision making. In other words, as I repeatedly said earlier, the law that every citizen has to abide to is made by a majority only, and not by everyone. Therefore, the fact that the majority exercises actual force onto the minority – which is the very base of the democratic system – is the greatest violence. Frankly speaking, arresting the body of one offender is not defined as an act of divine punishment, but in fact, it is an agreement made by fifty million people – a whole society -that is uniting against one person to take away the freedom of that person and lock him up. This is a very scary decision. The enforcement of the law is a very scary business. Just saying “because the law says so” brings up the name of the law, and after that we can usually hide behind this name after we mentioned it. The law is our power. The law is our common power, and therefore the execution of that law is not any different than 50 million people doing it with their own hands. So unfortunately according to the boundaries of the law, it can be possible for 25 million plus one person taking away the freedom of the rest.

    To say it one more time, the law is a physical enforcement which is supported by the power of every member under the law’s system. If a death sentence can be handed down, it means that the members of society are cooperating in killing one man. But in fact, imprisoning one’s body’s freedom can also mean social death. Sending a trained army to war means that all the killing activities during that war are agreed upon by all the members of the nation. When the police chases people who are about to be evicted over the edge, when the presence of immigration police makes migrant workers jump out off windows, when street vendors are beaten up so hard that they go blind – as all of these are instances happening in the name of the law, which means that this is all done by us ourselves. The power of enforcement that is handed out by the law is very, very frightening. We should not think of it lightly. The military has the purpose of killing the enemy efficiently, and the whole system, the management, the exercising and all the equipment of the military are continuously strengthened to meet that purpose. When we recognize and operate the very frightening military according the law, we can’t just say it is just for our own security. Because the usage of violence – even if we say that it is for our own security and safety, even if the whole world recognizes it legally – its fundamental principle is violence and the threat of violence, of physical violence, even of horrific violence. But if we still want to select that tool (the military), it is never enough that we, as members of society, keep debating and debating it.

    As one of the subjects of debate, to tell you my opinion, I think the entire system which gives more power (and rights) to some people but not to others must be eliminated. When we recognize and acknowledge that we all (individuals) have the same rights, I think, this is the realization of anarchism. But then what are equal rights? Can equal rights even make sense? Who decides on those equal rights?

    • Do You Like Worms? says:

      Tariq, no problemo.. as for this example of Anarchism, if at it’s very core is the belief that the wants of an individual trump the needs of the community, then I can dig that.

      • tariq says:

        In anarchist philosophy, it is not the wants, but the rights of the individual that trump the needs, wants, or supposed needs of the state, society, the community, whatever. For example, a man may want to dump toxic waste into a river to save his business money, and thereby increase profits, but the needs of the community for clean water trump the businessman’s wants in that case. He has no right to poison the community’s drinking water, but in that same spirit, the community has no right to force that man to work for them, against his will, in a water purification plant, no matter how important it is to have people working there. The community doesn’t own him, he owns himself, but he doesn’t own the river that the entire community depends on. I don’t know if that makes sense or not.

        In 1940, after seeing the terrifying rise of right authoritarianism in in Italy, Spain, and Germany, and witnessing first hand the failure and inhumanity of left-wing authoritarianism in her native Russia, the anarchist Emma Goldman wrote a beautiful essay about this topic, “The Individual, Society, and the State,”
        A more modern anarchist look at this subject is L. Susan Brown’s book “The Politics of Individualism”.

      • I just read The politics of Individualism that you suggested. It sorts out a lot of ideas related to liberalism, communism, socialism, and anarchism that most people are highly confused about. In particular it shows the superiority of Emma Goldman’s version of feminism over that of Betty Friedan and other mainstream feminists.

      • tariq says:

        I have to agree with that, Forest. The anarchist feminists of that era were far ahead of their time in many ways. It really wasn’t until the 3rd wave of feminism that the larger feminist movement started to catch up to them, and it is still catching up to them in some respects. In the 1990s, the larger feminist movement finally started to think seriously about ideas that anarchist women, like Lucy Parsons, were talking openly about all the way back in the 1880s.

  4. Forest Simmons says:

    His statement reminds me of Francesco (St Francis of Assisi) as portrayed in the film “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” a favorite of our family.

    Mormon boys have a recognized duty to serve in the “Lord’s Army” as missionaries, but they are not compelled to go. Nor are they disfellowshipped for deciding to stay home.

    More generally, nobody is forced to take the oath and covenant of the Melchizedec Priesthood, although section 84 says that those who altogether eschew this opportunity are self imposing a limitation on their progress towards their divine potential.

    I’m trying to point out a parallel here between induction into the military and induction into the priesthood. In particular, why should military service be compulsory when the Lord doesn’t make the much more important priesthood service compulsory?

    Some will say that priesthood service is not as important because military service is a matter of life and death, whereas PH service can be optional, since the Lord already has more than enough power to accomplish his purposes.

    Latter-Day Saints reject that attitude; we believe that the Lord’s power is the priesthood, i.e. the willing service of his fellow servants. Only by it can he accomplish his eternal purposes. His purpose is to bring to pass the imortality and eternal lives of his fellow beings, which he accomplishes through loving priesthood leadership.

    He organizes safe havens (worlds like earth, and zion quality societies on those worlds) and propagates life to them through the organization of this priesthood. No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by this priesthood except by persuasion, long suffering, and love unfeigned, in particular, not by threat of imprisonment for mere failure to participate.

    He guards these safe havens from natural chaos and from intentional disruptive evil by means of the same priesthood “fellow servants.”

    He has no hands but ours, for this all important work, but he doesn’t press anybody into it against their will.

    He lamented, “the harvest is great but the laborers are few …” It just means that it will take longer; he’s not going to stoop to compulsion to speed up the process.

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