Life sentence for brutal murder draws criticism

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Life sentence for brutal murder draws criticism

Seo Jin-hwan, 41, who brutally murdered a woman after a rape attempt in the victim’s house in Junggok-dong, eastern Seoul, was sentenced to life in prison by the Seoul Eastern District Court yesterday.

Seo, an ex-convict wearing an ankle bracelet who was released from prison last November after serving a term of seven and a half years for raping a woman in 2004, fatally stabbed the victim, mother of two children, after attempting to rape her.

Seo spotted the victim leaving her house to take her two kids to preschool. He saw that she left the door to her house open. He then went inside and hid behind the door of the master bedroom.

When the victim came back, Seo attempted to rape her but the woman fought him off and tried to escape the apartment. When she almost reached the door, Seo stabbed her in the neck, police said.

“Seo committed another cruel crime only nine months after he was released from prison,” Senior Judge Kim Jae-ho said in the ruling. “He illegally broke into someone’s house and took a person’s precious life and also caused great mental anguish to the victim’s family. But the suspect showed no repentance during his trial.”

The ruling however is generating some controversy over its perceived light punishment for a sex-related murder.

Prosecutors have been demanding the death sentence for Seo.

The court explained that executing the suspect could eliminate him from society and he has the right to live.

“Seo deserves the death penalty because what he has shown in trial was complaining about the tracking device, which he said he got stressed from, rather than regretting his crime,” prosecutors said in the final trial.

“This is insane!” Park, 39, husband of the victim, thundered. “I want to ask the judges how many people and how cruelly a man should kill people to get the death penalty. I really don’t know the court’s standard for the penalty.

Though he was sentenced to life imprisonment, there still is the possibility of him getting released from prison by a special pardon.”

The court said that Seo’s personal profile - his real name, a photo of his face and age - will be listed on the government’s sex offender registry (www.sexoffender.go.kr) for the next 10 years.

By Kim Min-sang, Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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