Wednesday, 9 April 2008

South Korea: Death penalty for child murders?

South Korean prosecutors will seek sentences of life imprisonment or the death penalty for people who have sexually assaulted and killed children under 13 years of age, according to an announcement by the Ministry of Justice in early April.

The Ministry presented the proposal to a Cabinet meeting following the sexual abuse and murder of two children in December and an attempted kidnapping in March.

"Such criminals who commit sexual assaults and murder after kidnapping children should be subject to stiff penalties such as life imprisonment or capital punishment,'' Prime Minister Han Seung-soo said after the meeting, according to The Korea Times.

"Crimes against children cannot be tolerated at all," he said.

"Ministries related to public security should map out measures against such inhumane crimes."

The Ministry has proposed other measures to combat a reported rise in sexual assaults on children. These include the creation of a DNA database to help monitor sex offenders and an increase in the minimum sentence for sex offences against children to seven years.

South Korea was declared abolitionist "in practice" on 30 December 2007, after it had not executed anyone for 10 years. It brought to 135 the number of countries that have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

The Korea Times said in its editorial that the country needed stiffer prison sentences and improved medical treatment of paedophiles and other sex offenders.

In November 2007, the newspaper called for complete abolition of the death penalty, saying the National Assembly should deal with an abolition bill before it "as soon as possible".

"Human judgment isn't perfect. Once someone is executed, there is no way to reverse this even if the person is later found to be innocent," the newspaper said.

Related stories:
South Korea: 100 days for abolition -- 6 February, 2008
South Korea: Renewed calls for abolition -- 12 October, 2007
Call for South Korea to show 'leadership' -- 27 June , 2006
South Korea death penalty hearing -- 10 April, 2006
South Korea: Kim Dae-jung's call for abolition -- 6 March, 2006
South Korea – former president calls for abolition -- 27 February, 2006

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