(Republic of Korea Navy-Yonhap)
South Korea will begin receiving applications next week from those who want to substitute mandatory military service for other public services due to religious or personal beliefs, the defense ministry said Tuesday.
By law, all able-bodied South Korean men must carry out military service for about two years in a country that faces North Korea across one of the world's most heavily fortified borders.
Violators are punished with prison terms.
In December, the National Assembly passed a bill allowing such "conscientious objectors" to do 36 months of alternative service at local correctional facilities, instead of joining the military.
A 29-member committee -- comprising lawyers, professors, activists and other experts from various fields -- was launched earlier in the day to review the applications, which will begin next Tuesday.
The first group of people to serve the alternative duty will be drafted in October, the ministry said.
"The defense ministry and other related government agencies will collaborate to make sure the committee can conduct the review fairly and independently," it said in a release. (Yonhap)