Monday, August 14, 2006

Abolition Legislation - A two-step process

Independence Day in Korea, as usual, is being met with Presidential pardons for criminals. In this case, the list of lucky crooks includes Ahn Hee-jung, Yeo Taek-su and former Uri Party lawmaker Shin Geh-ryoon. These criminals are all guilty of accepting illegal political funds.

As both The Party Pooper and the Korea Times rightly point out, letting these people go is a gross miscarriage of justice. From no angle can this be viewed as anything but blatant political cronyism and a gross violation of the spirit of the law. Letting these criminals out also reduces faith in the justice system. This is critically important at this juncture because Korea is seeking to abolish the death penalty. I think the bill is due to go before the National Assembly in September or October.

Parliamentarian Yoo In Tae is heading the campaign in the National Assembly to abolish the death penalty. Mr. Yoo himself was sentenced to death after being tortured and was imprisoned on death row for four and a half years before being released. Of those who were also sentenced to death with him, eight were executed. Their cases are currently being re-tried in the Supreme Court on strong evidence that they are innocent. South Korea hasn't executed anyone since 1997.

Abolishing the death penalty relies heavily on the public having faith in the justice system to convict and punish criminals. Even, though criminals with life sentences, should/would (?) be exempt of being elegible for the amnesty, the question is one of faith that justice will be served at all times, in all cases. Having Presidential amnesty that is habitually abused to set free cronies undermines the justice system’s ability to maintain respect for the rule of law. There can be no credibility in the law if one man/woman has the power to overturn any decision and set free criminals without concern for guilt or the danger they present to society, or respect for the victims of their crimes. The public should demand that the abolition of the death penalty should be preceded by abolition of the Amnesty law.

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui