Law, society, and capital punishment in Asia

By David T. Johnson / Franklin E. Zimring / Punishment and Society, on 1 January 2008

Students of capital punishment need to study Asia, the site of at least 85 percent and as many as 95 percent of the world’s executions. This article explores the varieties of Asian capital punishment in two complementary ways. Cross-sectionally, the impression of uniformity that comes from classifying 95 percent of the population of Asia as living in executing states breaks down when closer attention is paid to the character of capital punishment policy within retentionist nations. Temporally, the general trajectory of capital punishment in the Asian region seems downward (though generalizations about patterns in this part of the world are undermined by significant data problems). Asia is also a useful territory for testing the generality of theories of capital punishment based on European experience. Looking forward, Japan and South Korea, two developed nations in Asia that still retain the death penalty, may indicate what other Asian nations are likely to do as they develop. Ultimately, Asia either will become a major staging area for world-wide abolition or the campaign against capital punishment will fail to achieve global status.

  • Document type Article
  • Countries list Japan