South Korea’s 5,000th day without an execution an opportunity for abolition


By Martin Carbonell with ADPAN and MVFHR, on 8 September 2011

The bill has to be approved by the Legislation and Judiciary Committee (LJC) before it can be considered by the National Assembly.
Since 2008, there have been three different bills aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, all of which are still pending in the LJC. There is no time limit for deliberations so these bills face lapsing at the end of the legislature, in 2012.
The World Coalition played an active role when the last proposal to abolish the death penalty in South Korea was issued for the World Day Against the Death Penalty of 2008.

International action

An international action was launched to gather statements welcoming the forthcoming anniversary of 5,000 days (14 years) without any executions and supporting the new abolition bill. Organisations such as the Anti Death-Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN), Amnesty International, the World Coalition against the Death Penalty (WCADP), Murder Victim’s Families for Human Rights (MVFHR), Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP) as well as representatives of South Korean civil society, religious groups and members of the National Assembly jointly urge the LJC to vote in favour of abolishing the death penalty in South Korea.
The action will be marked by a press conference, public speaking events, meetings with parliamentarians and other Korean family members of murder victims.
On September 7th, a MVFHR delegation met with Yoo Keun Woo, Chair of the Legislative and Judiciary Committee, and other members of the National Assembly, bringing the voices of murder victims’ family members to support efforts to abolish the death penalty. MVFHR delivered the statements from all over the world including those from ADPAN and the WCADP to Chairman Woo.

“Risk of a return to the use of this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment”

The ADPAN statement unambiguously acknowledges: “So long as the death penalty remains on the statute books, and death sentences continue to be imposed, the risk of a return to the use of this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment remains a reality. Out of the 41 countries from Asia and the Pacific, 27 have abolished the death penalty in law and in practice. Of the 14 countries that still retain the death penalty, executions are decreasing and its use overall is less frequent”.
According to ADPAN, an unofficial moratorium has been in place in South Korea since 1998 when former President Kim Dae-jung took office and halted executions. Himself had been sentenced to death in 1980.
No executions have been carried out since December 1997, when 23 people were executed at short notice. As of 31 December 2010, 60 people had their sentences finalized and remain on death row and death sentences continue to be passed.

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