An image shows a man behind bars with his head down.

Photo: FOTOKITA (Shutterstock)

The Supreme Court of Korea has ruled that a South Korean man must serve one year and six months in prison after he refused the country’s mandatory military service. He had argued he was a conscientious objector, but a lower court dismissed this partially because he loves playing PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

Released in 2017, PUBG was one of the first and most popular battle royale shooters around. It still holds the record for most concurrent players on Steam at over 3 million. (Not even the recent mega-hit Palworld could top that number.) While other games—like Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone—have usurped its status as the top battle royale title, it still regularly appears on Steam’s most-played games list and still has a very large community. That includes one man in South Korea who looking to avoid mandatory military service.

In November 2018, an unnamed South Korean man was charged with violating the nation’s Military Service Act, which compels all able-bodied men in the country to serve in the military for at least 18 months. As reported by The Korea Herald (and spotted by Gamesradar) the man initially told the court he refused to enlist based on his personal beliefs against war.

In the verdict handed down in 2018—and upheld by the Supreme Court on February 4—the court said the defendant had “not put any effort into spreading or realizing what he says is his ideological belief.” The court also pointed to the man’s love of PUBG as further evidence he wasn’t against war and violence.

“The defendant admitted that he frequently enjoyed playing the game ‘Battlegrounds,’ which is about killing characters with guns in a virtual reality,” the court added, as reported by The Korea Herald. “The video game is different from reality. But the fact that the defendant—who says he is rejecting military service based on his beliefs to oppose violence and war—enjoys such games makes the court question whether his conscientious objection is authentic.”

According to investigators, he refused to join the military due to “rampant unfair orders” and because it regularly disregards human rights. The court disagreed and now the Supreme Court of Korea has confirmed the original ruling. The defendant will now be forced to serve 18 months in prison—the same amount of time he would have had to serve in the military.


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