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[Opinion] Capital Punishment

Posted November. 23, 2004 23:19,   


Controversy concerning capital punishment and its effectiveness and unjustness is still white-hot as ever. Perhaps it is because we are descendants of Socrates, who once said, “A bad law is still a law,” and unwitting raised his cup of poison. There are many philosophers who, contrary to popular belief, actually admit the inevitability of the death penalty. Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and Hegel, to name just a few. On the other hand, there are many artists who believe the death penalty should be abolished. Narrowly escaping the scaffold by a hair, Dostoevski spoke against the death penalty through “Idiot,” and Victor Hugo also pleaded, “The death penalty is not just beheading the sinner, it is beheading the innocent

families,”in his book “Last Day of a Condemned.” There are even anti-death penalty movies that deal with true stories of real convicts, such as “I Want To Live,” and “Dead Man Walking.”

There are the beheading, hanging, firing squad, electric chair, and the lethal injection death penalty methods. How are we to understand the fantastic scope of ideas designed to snatch human lives? As the years pass, lethal injection is becoming both preferable and prevalent as quick and painless death has become the newest trend. There are even various gadgets and devices employed to eliminate the guilt of the executioner, although any disclosure is quite impossible.

Worldwide, 118 countries have already abolished the death penalty. Some 23 countries have capital punishment, but are not in effect. Seventy-eight countries, including the U.S. and Japan, however, have adopted the death penalty. Because of this, 1,146 people in 28 countries have vanished into thin air in the death chambers in the year 2003 alone. Since the establishment of the government to the latest execution in 1997, a total of 902 people were executed in Korea. On the current waiting list, there are 59 people biding their time.

A bill to abolish capital punishment, signed by 152 assemblymen, will soon be submitted at the National Assembly. Countermeasures for the death penalty are being suggested, such as life imprisonment without parole or commutation that differs from indefinite penal servitude. The crux of the problem is public opinion. The fluctuations of public opinion regarding capital punishment, however, are drastic. A while ago, when the television drama “Hourglass” aired the finale episode, public opinion was sympathetic towards the hero convict and the opposing voices increased to almost 60 percent, but with the grotesque serial killings coming to light nowadays, 66 percent currently advocate the death penalty. Whether capital punishment will be sentenced or not is a matter to be seen.

Oh Myung-chul, Editorial writer, oscar@donga.com