By Kwon Miri
A bill to abolish capital punishment was presented to the National Assembly on Nov. 22 by Uri Party lawmaker Yoo In-tae, in accordance with signed support from 151 colleagues, which is half of all registered lawmakers. This incident may turn out to be a critical juncture for the age-old dispute over the moral validity of the capital punishment the death sentence.
The submitted bill aims to replace the capital punishment with a life sentence. There are a total of 103 criminals that are currently subject to the death penalty, but if the bill is passed, life imprisonment will be imposed instead, regardless of the crime committed. This includes murder, espionage, and treason.
This is not the first time that a motion to abolish the death penalty has been submitted to the National Assembly. A similar bill was presented to the National Assembly in 1999 and in 2001. The two attempts were rejected by the National Assembly judiciary committee and were scrapped before even being presented to the parliamentary standing committee.
However, this time, it is highly possible that the National Assembly's judiciary committee will refrain from blocking the bill? passage not only because of the ruling party's progressive characteristics, but also because of the mounting public concern and awareness against the morality of the death penalty.
A rally was held on September 22, calling for the ?egalization of the life-sentence and the abolishment of the capital punishment. More than 200 panels including religious leaders such as Mother Lee Hae-in attended the rally, staging performances like cutting the ropes of the noose as part of their protest against the death penalty.
Renny Cushing (51), former member of the U.S. House of Representative and the executive director of "Murder Victims Families For Reconciliation (MVFR), whose father was murdered in 1988, also attended the rally. Cushing stressed the need to abolish death penalty and to help the victims saying, ?hat the victims families need is not another death but the social support to overcome the sufferings.
He went on and said, "If we let murders turn us to murder, we give them too much powerthey succeed in bringing us to their way of thinking and acting." And added, "We believe that a replication by the state of the deadly violence that took our loved ones from us makes us all killers."
The subject of death penalty is one of the most heated topics for debate everywhere. According to the Amnesty International, 81 countries abolished the capital punishment for all crimes. Fourteen countries, including Turkey, scrapped death penalty against all crimes except war-crime. Twenty-three countries virtually abandoned the law, considering that they never executed one case of capital punishment for over ten years.
This leaves 78 countries including U.S., Japan, and Korea that still employ the capital punishment. In the case of U.S., however, latest movements show signs of stirs and ripples, as the Assembly's Democratic leadership announced that the chamber would hold two public hearings in December and January 2005 to consider the future of the death penalty in New York.
Worldwide, 1,146 people were executed in 28 different countries in the year 2003. Since the establishment of Korea's democratic government, a total of 902 have been killed with the death penalty. The last execution of the death penalty took place in 1997, and currently there are 59 people waiting on the death roll list.