Castration revival is a step backward
Sima Qian’s words infuriated Emperor Han Wudi, and he was given three options: execution, payment of half million dans or castration. He did not have enough money, and his father had asked in his will that he complete a history book. In the end, he chose castration. That was more than 2,100 years ago.
The Chinese should be thankful for Sima Qian’s choice. If he had chosen death, the Records of the Grand Historian would not have been written.
In the 21st century, the National Assembly of Korea is discussing bringing back the punishment of castration. Nineteen representatives, including Park In-suk of the Saenuri Party, proposed a bill on surgical treatment for sex offenders that effectively legalizes a modern form of castration. Habitual sex offenders who cannot be expected to be reformed or rehabilitated and have a high probability of repeating their crimes would be subject to castration. By surgically removing testicles, which generate testosterone, the offender would become sexually impotent.
Chemical castration, which already has been adopted, is costly and its effect is fundamentally limited. So legislators argued that physical castration is the best possible option to eradicate sex crimes. Their point is clear, as heinous sex crimes against even children and pregnant women are still haunting the society. Permanently removing the “weapon” may be the most effective solution. However, physical castration is like cutting off the hands of a thief or the tongue of a liar. It means the revival of outdated physical punishment and violates individual freedom as defined in the Constitution.
European countries and some states in the United States allow voluntary physical castration. In most cases, the offender can choose between chemical and physical methods. Only in Texas can authorities order physical castration against the wishes of the offender. Texas also carries out more executions than any other state. Executions and physical castrations have made Texas a subject of denunciation by human rights groups around the world.
What would Sima Qian say if he knew that “civilized” modern people brought back the outdated punishment of castration?
* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Bae Myung-bok
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