Hannibal Lecter of Korea could be sent to cushy jail

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Hannibal Lecter of Korea could be sent to cushy jail

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In this file photo, inmates at the foreigners’ correctional facility in Cheonan, South Chungcheong, participate in traditional Korean etiquette training. The prison, which can hold 1,230 prisoners, was opened in February 2010. [JoongAng Ilbo]

Many Koreans were outraged when the country’s top court last week rejected arguments for reinstating the death sentence imposed on Wu Yuanchun, the 43-year-old Korean-Chinese who gruesomely abducted, murdered and butchered a 28-year-old woman in Suwon, Gyeonggi, last April, but struck down by an appeals court.

And anger flared over the weekend when the media reported that the brutal killer could be sent to an exclusive prison for foreign criminals in Cheonan, South Chungcheong, where the living is easier. Accommodations include bunk beds and different kinds of food than in normal Korean jails.

The other possible option for Wu is Daejeon Prison, which has a separate facility for foreign criminals.

Wu, a migrant worker, was originally sentenced to death for the rape, murder and dismemberment of the victim by a district court in June last year, but the sentence was reduced in October by an appeals court and the Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s verdict last week.

Wu spent six hours cutting his victim’s body into 365 pieces and individually wrapping each in plastic.

When reports about Wu were released on Saturday, the official Web page of the Ministry of Justice went down temporarily after so many angry netizens visited the site to register complaints. Major Korean Web portal sites such as Naver and Daum were jammed with opinions.

“It is insane to spend taxpayers’ precious money to serve a brute of a man like Wu!” read one of the messages posted on the Web site of Ministry of Justice.

A message from Twitter read, “I saw pictures of the facility and it looks even better than military facilities, it is crazy.”

The Cheonan foreigners’ prison has 49 buildings on 413,257 square meters (102.1 acres) of land in Seobuk District. It can accommodate up to 1,230 prisoners and four to 12 prisoners share cells fitted with bunk beds. The facility also has public phones with video call function, as well as a TV lounge, which offers broadcasts in four different languages: English, Chinese, Arabic and Russian.

Prisoners can choose a meal option from their part of the world or appropriate for their religions. Middle Eastern prisoners, for instance, can choose a meal with curry and salad instead of the ordinary Korean meal. Prisoners from Western countries can have pork cutlets, bread, ham and cheese.

Nine guards fluently in foreign languages including English and Chinese work there, and the facility offers courses in Korean, gardening and plumbing.

According to the Ministry of Justice, about 22.8 million won ($21,500) is spent for each prisoner a year for food, clothes, medical services, heating as their wages for work done in prison.

If the 43-year-old killer lives until the age of 77, the average life expectancy for a Korean man, it will cost 761.8 million won to keep him.

“It doesn’t mean that Wu will be sent to the Cheonan prison because he is a foreign criminal,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said.

The Justice Ministry said that Wu is currently detained in the Anyang Prison and the Korean Correctional Service will decide on the facility after reviewing his profile, including the nature of his crime, age and health condition.


By Shim Sae-rom, Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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