Ahead of its ruling, Korea's Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday in the cases of three conscientious objectors indicted for refusing to serve in the military on the grounds of their religious beliefs.
In 2004, the court ruled that religious beliefs are not a "justifiable reason" under the Military Service Act.
But since then, lower court decisions have all run counter to that judgment.
And in June, the Constitutional Court mandated that the National Assembly amend the law to offer alternative service to those objectors.
The hearing Thursday focused again on whether religious beliefs are a "justifiable reason" for not serving.
The defense argued that the decision not to enlist is based on an "earnest deliberation" of one's religious convictions, and that they are not calling for an exemption from civic duty but merely asking that their freedom of conscience be recognized as guaranteed under the constitution.
The prosecutors stressed that a "justifiable reason" under the law includes only diseases and natural disasters that can be objectively assessed as impediments to military service. They argued that religious beliefs are personal, and that it's impossible to objectively examine the existence of religious beliefs because of the possibility of deception by non-believers.
With the hearing now over, the Supreme Court will deliberate and issue a ruling. All eyes are on whether the court will upend the 2004 decision and find religious beliefs an acceptable reason for refusing to report for active military duty.
Choi Si-young, Arirang News.