[FOUNTAIN]The Life of the Death Penalty

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[FOUNTAIN]The Life of the Death Penalty

Executing another human being in the name of the law is the oldest type of punishment in history. The first written law that mentioned capital punishment was Hammurabi's Code of Babylonia, which passed death sentences on 25 crimes. In our history, Gojoseon, the first nation that was founded 2333 B.C. on the northwestern part of the Korean peninsula, stipulated that a murderer would be subject to execution immediately if he broke one of Gojoseon's eight testaments.

Though the various kinds of capital punishment all lead to death, the methods of execution were crueler in ancient times. In Roman law in the fifth century B.C., a number of ways for execution existed, including drowning, burning, beheading and crucifixion, the execution method, of course, for Jesus Christ. After some time had passed, hanging was introduced, and it became common in 10th century England. As shown in historical dramas on TV, different execution methods have existed in our history, including poisoning, hanging, decapitation and dismemberment. After the Political Reform of 1894, only hanging remained legal. Not long ago, a controversy raged in the United States over the abolishment of capital punishment prior to the execution of Timothy McVeigh, who was charged with bombing a federal building in Oklahoma. In the United States. there are five different methods for execution: lethal injection of a toxic substance, electrocution, gassing, hanging and by firing squad. Among these, injection is most common, adopted by 36 states.

A well-known method of execution from history is the guillotine, named after the inventor of the device, Joseph Ignace Guillotin, and introduced during the French Revolution. The guillotine's original purpose was to execute painlessly, but it became a notorious symbol of political terror. Dr. Guillotin was reportedly executed by his own invention. France used the guillotine until 1977, when the country did away with the death sentence.

William the Conqueror, the king of England in the 11th century, was the first to argue for the abolishment of capital punishment. The king announced he would abolish the death sentence, except during wartime, but that did not last long.

The controversy over the death penalty rose again in Korea after 154 lawmakers submitted a special bill for abolishment. There are two contradicting arguments: That the death penalty is a necessary evil to prevent atrocious crimes; or that it is an outdated system, which violates the dignity of human beings, and is not an effective deterrent. Public opinion seems to be evenly divided. Is there any reasonable way to satisfy both?



The writer is a Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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