SOUTH KOREA. JUSTICE MINISTRY TO RECONSIDER DEATH PENALTY
February 21, 2006: the Justice Ministry announced today it will review the possibility of replacing capital punishment with life imprisonment without parole or pardon to meet the rising number of calls on enhancing the protection of human rights.
The ministry had been resisting the calls from parliament to consider abolishing capital punishment and instead has been working on narrowing down the death penalty statutes.
In a mid- and long-term reform road map released to the public, the ministry said it will also improve the probation system that has been prompting concerns of human rights violations and offer voting rights for prisoners.
The comprehensive blueprint for reform passed through the scrutiny of outside experts before being released.
The ministry is determined to construct a criminal justice system that is pro-human rights and will thus closely review the possibility of abolishing the death penalty, the plan said.
Reviews will include case studies of Germany, France and others that have discarded capital punishment and calculate the possible repercussions an abolishment will have on society and in preventing deadly crimes.
Korea retains the death penalty for ordinary crimes but no death sentences have been executed since 1998 although 57 criminal convicts are on death row.
The ministry said it will begin reviewing the feasibility of adopting an "unconditional" life imprisonment without parole or pardon and the required budget, human resources among others.
There are 87 clauses in 17 different laws leading to capital punishment in Korea. Almost half of them are from the Military Criminal Law, while 15 others belong to Criminal Law, eight to the Additional Punishment Law on Specific Crimes, and four from the National Security Law.
A public hearing will be held for the occasion within the first half of this year before research is completed by June.
The outcome will determine whether the ministry will support a bill pending at the National Assembly submitted by Uri lawmaker Yoo Ihn-tae and signed by a total of 175 lawmakers in 2004 to replace capital punishment with life imprisonment, the ministry said.
The ministry said it will also "enthusiastically" support and cooperate with the government's latest move to seek the truth behind human rights violations and corruption by past governments and repair legal tools to extend the statute of limitations among others.
The ministry said it will also seek to improve the law on monitoring released convicts to better prevent repetition of offense.
Other measures up for evaluation include giving voting rights to imprisoned convicts. Under the current law, prisoners on life or death sentence are evicted of their voting rights while others are withheld of the right until release. (Sources: The Korea Herald, 21/02/2006)