"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Friday, July 10, 2015

South Korea: Bill before parliament to abolish the death penalty

South Korea is already among countries with no death penalty in practice, with last execution in 1997

On July 6, a former death row inmate brought a bill before parliament that would abolish the death penalty and replace it with life in prison. The bill was submitted to the National Assembly by Yu In-tae, a lawmaker with the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) who was sentenced to death during the National Democratic Youth Students' Alliance incident under the Yushin constitution. Yu had previously submitted the bill to the 17th National Assembly.

"More than 17 years have passed since the last person was executed in South Korea on Dec. 30, 1997, and it is already classified as a country that has abolished the death penalty in practice. Doing away with the death penalty is also a global trend," Yu said during a press conference on Monday to explain why he had submitted the bill.

Yu argued forcefully for the need to get rid of capital punishment. "As of Dec. 31, 2014, 140 of the 198 countries around the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice, while only 58 countries have retained it. South Korea is the home of the UN secretary general, and it needs to uphold its duties as a member of the international community."

The bill submitted by Yu would replace death penalty described in the criminal code, the military criminal code, the Criminal Procedure Act, and the National Security Law with a sentence of life imprisonment that could not be pardoned or commuted. The bill received bipartisan support, co-sponsored by 42 lawmakers from the ruling Saenuri Party (NFP), 124 from the NPAD, and 5 from the Justice Party - 171 altogether - who agree with its intent.

38 years after being sentenced to death during the rule of former president Park Chung-hee (1961-79), Yu was exonerated in a retrial in Feb. 2012. Yu's personal experience has driven him to keep working to abolish the death penalty, and this is the 2nd time he has brought the bill to the National Assembly, following his previous attempt during the 17th Assembly.

This is the 7th time that the bill to abolish the death penalty has been submitted to the National Assembly. Each of the previous 6 times - beginning with the 15th Assembly - the bill has run into controversy and been summarily discarded.

Source: The Hankyoreh, Lee Seung-joon, July 7, 2015

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