[FOUNTAIN]Move gains to end capital punishment“Do you approve of capital punishment?” The Japanese movie “Koshikei” begins with the narrator’s question. The 1968 film by Nagisa Oshima is based on a true story of a Korean-Japanese who was hanged for the rape and murder of a high school girl.
Oshima, a film director, is well known for expressing his political views through his artistic works. In “Koshikei,” Oshima addressed the discrimination against ethnic Koreans in Japan and satirized the state’s oppression of individual freedom.
The American filmmaker Tim Robbins’ “Dead Man Walking” is another movie about the death penalty based on a true story. As a convict is given a lethal injection in the last scene, the viewer has a poignant moment to ask himself if it is proper for the state to kill in the name of the law.
The calm yet powerful indictment of the inhumanity of capital punishment is based on Sister Helen Prejean’s 1984 book. Sister Helen is an internationally famous capital punishment opponent. She criticizes the death penalty as yet another form of murder.
Over 80 percent of the convicts on death row are poor, and the proportion of African-Americans is very high, Sister Helen stresses consistently.
Do you approve of capital punishment? The question has been posed to the National Assembly. Representative Yoo In-tae, who had been sentenced to death but was later pardoned, has collected the signatures of 152 Assembly members and submitted a bill to abolish capital punishment.
Mr. Yoo, the poet Kim Ji-ha and many others who had been sentenced to death and pardoned are active in many fields of our society. Most were political offenders who fought against the autocratic regimes during the Cold War era.
They returned alive from the political murders to eliminate political opponents, but there are people who never returned. At dawn of April 9, 1975, eight alleged members of the People’s Revolution Party were executed only 19 hours after the Supreme Court sentenced them to death.
The statistics show that the greatest number of executions was carried out during the Park Chung Hee administration; that reveals the peculiar nature of Korea’s capital punishment.
Do you approve of capital punishment? The modern history of Korea is asking us.
by Chung Jae-suk
The writer is a deputy culture news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.