No special treatment for election fraud

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No special treatment for election fraud


In 1999, U.S. District Attorney Norman Gahn in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, indicted a serial rapist who was never arrested. The name of the offender was John Doe, a placeholder used for a person whose identity is unknown. Gahn indicted the unidentified rapist because the six-year statute of limitations was set to expire in a few days. The indictment was accepted because there was sufficient evidence - including a DNA sample - to identify the offender.

After the statute of limitations expires, a prosecutor may not file an indictment for a crime. The system was initiated to maintain legal balance. However, critics say that it is unjust. Some even think that the statute of limitations can be an obstacle to justice and a haven for injustice. There have been many movements to extend or eliminate the statute of limitations.

Notable cases involving the statute of limitations include the Special Law on the May 18 Democratization Movement and the Special Law on the Statute of Limitations Regarding Crimes Destroying the Constitutional Order. By extending the statute of limitations on high treason, two former presidents, Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae-woo, were punished.

Today, there is a global trend toward eliminating the statute of limitations on sex crimes against children. Japan eliminated it for sex crimes in 2000 and many countries in the UK and states in the U.S. do not apply the clause to sex crimes. In Korea, the statute of limitations on sex crimes against minors is 10 years after the victim turns 20.

When an offender flees the country, the statute of limitations is automatically suspended. So it would be foolish to commit a crime and flee to wait for the statute of limitations to expire.

The statute of limitations in the public election law is six months. Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education Superintendent Kwak No-hyun must have misinterpreted the statute of limitations when he promised 200 million won ($186,133) to Prof. Park Myong-gee of Seoul National University of Education before the superintendent election in exchange for Park withdrawing from the race. Kwak actually gave Park the money in February, eight months after the election. The problem is that Kwak wasn’t aware of the fact that the statute of limitations is automatically suspended when a bribe is given. Looking at this case, I think it wouldn’t be harsh at all to cancel the statute of limitations in cases involving shameless election-related offenders.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Kim Nam-joong
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