ASIA/SOUTH KOREA - Death penalty is always a loss: civil society calls for abolition

Wednesday, 11 October 2023 death penalty   human rights  

Seoul (Fides News Agency) - While the Korean Ministry of Justice has transferred two death row inmates to Seoul Detention Center, where executions could be carried out for the first time in 26 years, numerous voices and organisations in the Korean civil society are protesting, calling once again for the definitive and explicit abolition of the death penalty in the state's legal system. On the occasion of the 21st World Day Against the Death Penalty, yesterday, October 10, various movements and associations from different backgrounds, including Christian communities of different denominations, participated in the "United Conference on the Abolition of the Death Penalty," which aims to raise awareness among political decision-makers on an issue that is close to everyone's heart: respect for human life. "Attempts to execute people must be stopped, and the campaign to abolish the death penalty in Korea must continue," the conference said.
"Although the government assures that no executions will be carried out, we are concerned because the media is spreading reports that execution facilities are operational. And the move to gather prisoners sentenced to death at Seoul Detention Center goes in the same direction," reads a statement released at the end of the initiative. The Forum of associations called on the Ministry of Justice to "behave in accordance with human rights" and exclude the execution of prisoners.
The conference affirmed, "Punishing a 'horrible' crime with a 'horrible' punishment is in itself a horrible thing. It should be remembered that the death penalty has no deterrent effect, is not useful, and should be abolished." Among the Korean public, the increasing cases of heinous crimes have led to widespread support for the use of the death penalty. However, according to civil society movements, "the right response is to strengthen crime prevention measures on a large scale and provide the necessary psychological and material support to victims and their families.
Although Korean President Seok-yeol Yoon voted in favor of a global moratorium on the death penalty at the United Nations General Assembly last December, a year later, the statement said, the Korean Ministry of Justice is leaning toward maintaining the death penalty.
Meanwhile, an amendment to the Penal Code, passed in the National Assembly in July, abolishes the 30-year statute of limitations on the execution of the death penalty, which has previously had its "constitutional legitimacy" declared by the Constitutional Court: the Korean government is invoking this ruling to retain the death penalty.
The Subcommittee on the Abolition of the Death Penalty of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Korean Catholic Bishops participated in the Conference on the Abolition of the Death Penalty. Since 2006, the Korean Catholic Church has conducted five signature collections for legislative petitions calling for the abolition of the death penalty and the introduction of alternative punishments.
There are currently a total of 59 inmates sentenced to death in Korea. Korea is classified as a country with the death penalty but where a moratorium on executions is in effect after the last execution of 23 death row inmates was suspended on December 30, 1997.
However, in recent days, two death row convicts, Yoo Young-cheol (serial killer of 21 people) and Jeong Hyeong-gu (also a convicted murderer) have been transferred to the Seoul Detention Center by order of the Minister of Justice, and public attention has focused on the possibility that the death penalty may be applied in their case. There are currently 18 death row inmates incarcerated in the special Seoul Detention Center set up to carry out executions.
The World Day for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, over the years, has become a focal point for the global campaign against the death penalty, and many cultural activities are also organized in the following weeks, until November 30, the day dedicated to the "Cities for Life" initiative, when numerous cities around the world light up their symbolic buildings to celebrate the first abolition of the death penalty, which took place in 1786 in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, and to promote the global campaign to abolish the death penalty.
(PA) (Fides News Agency 11/10/2023)