[EDITORIALS]Death Penalty Debate Must Go OnIn the National Assembly, 154 lawmakers from the opposition and ruling parties proposed a bill abolishing the death penalty, which was signed by the majority of Assembly members. Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan recently comforted criminals on death row at the Seoul Detention Center and said the death penalty should be abolished. In Korea, the argument for abolishing the death penalty has gained increasing support.
According to Amnesty International, 80 countries have the death penalty, including the United States, China, Japan and Korea. It has been abolished or never existed in 100 other countries.
Today, the argument for abolishing the death penalty is widespread. Every year, two countries on average end the death penalty. The European Union and the Council of Europe made abolition of the death penalty a precondition of membership. The UN Human Rights Commission has led a consistent campaign to abolish the death penalty.
The arguments for and against the death penalty are convincing. Those against it say its demise would prevent the state from murdering its citizens. They say the death penalty is inhumane and absolves the state of its responsibility to re-educate criminals.
They also argue that there is no statistical proof that the death penalty deters heinous crime. They stress the possibility of mistakes, the possible misuse of the penalty for political reasons and the value of life.
Supporters of the death penalty say the argument for abolishing the death penalty is unreasonable and idealistic. They emphasize that the death penalty is a punishment for wrongdoing and necessary to protect the human rights of the victims. They urge the government to strengthen the system to avoid mistakes and the abuse of the right to pardon criminals.
In Korea, the argument to do away with the death penalty is not new. A civic organization has campaigned against it. A bill to abolish the death penalty was proposed at the 15th session of the National Assembly, but it was not approved. The Supreme Court ruled in 1987 and the Constitutional Court ruled in 1995 that abolition of the death penalty is constitutional. The Constitutional Court added that serious discussion to determine whether society has the right to kill its citizens should continue.
It is time to discuss the abolition of the death penalty publicly. In Korea, the number of executions has shot up with every political cataclysm, such as the Korean War, the April 19 Students' Uprising and the May 16 military coup. Opinions should be collected through bruising public debate. Even if the death penalty is not abolished immediately, laws should be revised to reduce the number of crimes punishable by death.