Monday, 6 March 2006

South Korea: Kim Dae-jung's call for abolition

Last week, we reported on moves to encourage abolition of the death penalty in South Korea, including a call from former President - and death row survivor - Kim Dae-jung. Here is the text of his appeal:

A Contribution to the Campaign of Amnesty International for the Abolition of Capital Punishment
February 20, 2006

It is the general trend in the 21st century to abolish capital punishment. Resolutions calling for the abolition of the death penalty have also repeatedly been brought up before the National Assembly in Korea.

Capital punishment goes against the foundation of democracy. Democracy regards the life of a human being to be the most cherished in the world, and to end a person’s life even in the name of law clearly runs counter to the basic principle of human rights.

In the case of capital punishment, there is no way to right the wrong after the execution has been carried out. We cannot completely rule out the possibility of a prosecutor or judge making a mis-judgement.

What is more worrisome is that there have been countless cases where dictators have misused the capital punishment to oppress and wipe out democratic advocates and political dissidents. This was what happened in the so-called People’s Revolution Party case in Korea when the participants were wrongfully accused and executed, and also when I was on the verge of being executed, being sentenced to death.

Pushing ahead with capital punishment does not lead to the reduction of crime, even when the criminal has committed a morally unforgivable crime. Rather, the capital punishment should be downgraded to life sentence so that the criminal can repent for his crime and become a new person.

Then, is this possible? Both good and evil exist in a person. A virtuous man can become a vicious man and vice versa, depending on his surroundings and his own efforts. We have witnessed countless times when a person who committed a heinous crime repents and turns over a new leaf.

During the five years of my presidential term, no capital punishment was carried out and in some cases the sentence was downgraded to life sentence. The reason was because capital punishment cannot be the true solution and it also goes against democracy and human rights. I dearly hope that capital punishment can be abolished to see the true completion of democracy not only in Korea but in the whole world.

Kim Dae-jung
Former President of the Republic of Korea
2000 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

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