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Will the Death Penalty Be Put to Death?

Posted February. 18, 2005 22:41,   


The Legislation and Judiciary Committee of the National Assembly held a general meeting on February 18 and presented a special bill aimed at abolishing the death penalty, and the committee started consultations on the bill. Representative Yoo In-tae of the ruling Uri Party initiated the bill with 175 lawmakers.

The bill instead proposes a non-remittable life sentence, under which convicts are placed in prison for the rest of their lives without parole or sentence reduction.

On the same day, Justice Minister Kim Seung-gyu and several lawmakers heated verbal dispute over the appropriateness of the death penalty at the committee.

“It is contrary to the spirit of the Constitution that the government wields the power to take the life of a human being. This could seriously harm human dignity. No matter how deep the hate victims have for offenders is, it would never be compared to what those who had to die under false accusation must have felt,” Yoo stressed.

Rep. Yoo had been sentenced to death during the Park Chung-hee regime in 1974 for his anti-government activities and served over four years on death row.

“The death penalty has been maintained, but the number of hideous crimes sentenced to capital punishment has not decreased at all. Making them regret their crimes for the rest of their lives in prison would be much harsher punishment than just putting them to death,” said Rep. Roh Hoi-chan of the Democratic Labor Party (DLP).

Justice Minister Kim Seung-gyu, however, argued that the abolishment of the death penalty is against the principle of “equivalence of penalty,” and that the majority of the public advocate the death penalty.

“If we are to spare terrorists or perpetrators who committed hideous and cruel crimes and killings, we then would have to face this inevitable question of how to understand the situation that life of one criminal is valued more highly than thousands of lives sacrificed by the criminal,” Kim pointed out.

He also added that according to public polls conducted by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea and the Korea Society Opinion Institute, 69.5 percent and 66.3 percent of respondents, respectively, oppose scrapping the death penalty.

“Only with this bill alone, revising all 17 individual laws related to the punishment would be impossible. We need to consult on each one at a time,” Rep. Jang Yun-seok of the Grand National Party (GNP) suggested.

The Legislation and Judiciary Committee passed the bill on to the subcommittee for consultation on the same day, and is now planning to collect various opinions from all social strata through a public hearing.

Myoung-Gun Lee gun43@donga.com