Human rights commission urges Korea to abolish death penalty
简介South Korea’s human rights commission on Tuesday called for the Korean government to abolish the dea ...
South Korea’s human rights commission on Tuesday called for the Korean government to abolish the death penalty now that the Ministry of Justice has also raised the possibility of introducing life imprisonment without parole.
Song Doo-hwan, chair of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, urged the Korean people and the government to formally repeal capital punishment, in a statement issued on Tuesday to mark the 21st annual World Day Against the Death Penalty.
Korea is already among the countries with no death penalty in practice, with its last execution in December 1997. Amnesty International categorizes Korea as an abolitionist country in practice “in that they have not executed anyone during the last ten years or more and are believed to have a policy or established practice of not carrying out executions.”
The death penalty, however, remains the heaviest sentence in the Korean criminal justice system. It can be imposed on someone who committed a serious crime such as murder. Currently, Korea has 59 individuals on death row, all of whom have been convicted of murder.
Abolishing the capital penalty is needed for Korea to live up to international standards, as 112 countries -- the majority of the world's states -- have entirely abandoned it, according to the NHRCK. Specifically, 112 countries have abolished the death penalty in law, and 144 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. A minority of 55 countries still retained the death penalty at the end of 2022, according to Amnesty.
Song urged the Korean government to discuss the abolition of the capital penalty while also discussing the introduction of life imprisonment without parole and other alternatives.
The Ministry of Justice has pushed to create the sentence of life imprisonment without parole to respond more sternly to heinous crimes like murder. It gave notice of a proposed revision to the Criminal Act containing the creation of the life sentence without parole, Aug. 14 to Sept. 25. If the proposed revision is passed by the National Assembly and promulgated by the president, the law would take effect.
“This is the time to formally discuss repealing capital punishment. Many of those who supported the existence of the death penalty responded positively to the abolition of the death penalty when alternative punishments were introduced,” said Song.
“I want all of us to remember that the death penalty is inhumane and violates the fundamental right to life,” Song stressed.
Against the human rights commission's recommendation, this summer Korea faced calls from some calling for the revival of capital punishment after a series of knife rampages and other violent crimes against random people stoked public fears here.
For instance, in July, the bereaved family members of a victim of the stabbing rampage near Sillim Station in Gwanak-gu, southern Seoul, filed a petition via the National Assembly's online system, calling for the suspect to be sentenced to death.
Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon then ordered four correctional institutions where executions may take place to inspect their execution facilities for proper maintenance in August.
Han also ordered the transfer of two prisoners currently on death row to Seoul Detention Center, where one execution facility is located, last month.
However, the prosecutor-turned-justice minister at the same time also stressed that resuming the practice of capital punishment would likely jeopardize Korea's status in the international community and its diplomatic ties with many countries.
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