April 5, 2018

Adventists in Korea Await Legal Ruling on Sabbath Accommodation

Northern Asia Pacific News & Bettina Krause

A young medical student in South Korea is requesting the prayers of Seventh-day Adventists around the world as he awaits a legal decision that could have far-reaching implications for the church in Korea.

Jiman Han, a first-year medical student, has sued for the right to complete his university exams outside of Sabbath hours. He began his legal action only after talks with his professors and school administrators — and an appeal to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea — failed to resolve his predicament.

Jiman’s case is the first of its kind for Adventists in Korea and the court’s ruling, due on April 18, 2018, will serve as a precedent in future Sabbath-keeping cases.

According to Ganoune Diop, director of the Adventist world church’s Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department, Sabbath accommodation has been an ongoing challenge for Adventist students in Korea. University and professional accreditation exams are often scheduled on Saturdays, and alternate arrangements for Sabbath-keepers are not guaranteed. Diop says that a favorable legal ruling would be a tremendous encouragement for Adventists in Korea.

“Through the years, many students, like Jiman, have chosen to stay true to their convictions and have refused to sit for exams on Sabbath,” says Diop. “Unfortunately, their courageous stand often means an end to their educational or professional aspirations.”

According to The Society for Religious Freedom and Equal Opportunity in Korea, an advocacy organization supporting Jiman’s case, the medical school’s refusal to accommodate Sabbath-keeping is a violation of Korea’s constitution. It cites Article 11 of the Constitution, which provides, “No one shall be discriminated against in any area of political, social or cultural life due to...religion.” It also points to a policy of the medical school Jiman attends that permits alternative testing for those who cannot take the exam “due to illness or any other unavoidable circumstance."

In a statement, the organization has appealed for support from the international Adventist community.

“We have done everything we can, and the results are in God's hands. Please pray that our Lord, who moved the heart of Cyrus to liberate the Jews, will impress the judges to grant the Adventists of Korea the freedom to honor God by keeping His Sabbath holy,” it said. “When Esther was preparing to go before the king, all the Jews of the land prayed in union. Please join us in prayer during your personal devotion and family worship, and at your local church.”