Monday, 27 February 2006

South Korea – former president calls for abolition

South Korea's former president Kim Dae-jung – himself a former death row inmate – has called for an end to the death penalty, adding to a growing campaign for abolition in the country.

The appeal, distributed by Amnesty International on 20 February, was reported by Taiwan's China Post newspaper.

"Capital punishment goes against the foundation of democracy," Kim said. "To end a person's life even in the name of law clearly runs counter to the basic principle of human rights."

According to The China Post, Kim's appeal cited concerns about the possibility of judicial error or dictators misusing the punishment against political dissidents.

"This was what happened ... when I was on the verge of being executed," he said.

South Korea has not carried out executions since Kim Dae-jung took office in February 1998, although it has continued to sentence people to death.

Kim was sentenced to death on sedition charges in 1980 by South Korea's ruling military government. His death sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment and he was allowed to leave the country.

The South Korea Justice Ministry announced last week that it was reviewing the death penalty and considering replacing executions with life imprisonment. The announcement represented a significant shift from the ministry's previous active opposition to any move to abolish the death penalty.

The last executions in South Korea were on 30 December 1997, when 18 men and 5 women were executed in prisons across the country. They had no advance notice of their imminent executions. The mass hangings were the first executions in the country for two years.

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