China executes 2 Korean smugglers

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China executes 2 Korean smugglers

China yesterday executed two South Korean men in Jilin Province for drug trafficking and trading convictions, the first death sentence for Korean citizens carried out in the country in a decade, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The two men, a 52-year-old identified only by his surname Kim, and a 44-year-old identified only as Baek, were arrested in April 2011 in the northeastern province for smuggling and selling methamphetamine, a serious crime in China.

Another Korean man, a 55-year-old surnamed Jang, is likely to be executed later this week for selling 11.9 kilograms (26.2 pounds) of methamphetamine, the ministry said.

Between 2010 and 2011, Kim and Baek, whose occupations are unknown, were involved in smuggling around 14.8 kilograms of methamphetamine - also known as philopon - from North Korea into China.

Baek sold the supply to Korean drug organizations as well as other circles.

Chinese officials notified the Korean Consulate in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, in northeastern China, shortly after the two were arrested. After Kim and Baek were sentenced in a lower Chinese court, the Korean government continuously requested a suspension of the sentence on humanitarian grounds, though to no avail.

Chinese authorities relayed that in regard to crimes involving drugs, the country applies identical standards to foreigners and its citizens alike, a Korean foreign affairs official said.

“We tried our utmost to prevent the death sentences from being carried through,” the official said ahead of the execution. He added that it looked like it would also be difficult to overturn the third man’s execution ruling.

Further details of the execution were not provided yesterday, but a Korean official said that Kim and Baek’s families had been informed of the executions beforehand.

The last time a Korean was executed in China for a drug-related crime was in September 2001.

The case drew strong public backlash in Korea because of the government’s failure to detect and block the death sentence of the 41-year-old man, who was arrested in 1997 in Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang Province, for producing and selling methamphetamine. The Chinese government informed the Korean Foreign Ministry with just a fax. He was sentenced to death by a Harbin court in 1999.

Another Korean man was executed in China in 2004 for murdering two people and chopping up their bodies.

Under Article 347 of China’s Criminal Law, those found guilty of smuggling, trafficking or transporting more than 50 grams of heroin or methamphetamine or other narcotic drugs in large quantities can face life imprisonment or the death penalty.

Chinese criminal law is applicable to anyone who commits a crime in the country.

According to the Korean Foreign Ministry, there are about 20 additional Korean nationals who have received death sentence suspensions in China for drug-related offenses or murder crimes. Capital punishment for foreigners for drug dealing is not uncommon in China.

Within the past five years, foreign nationals from other countries, including the United Kingdom, the Philippines, South Africa and Pakistan, have also been executed in China for drug-related crimes.

“Most of those cases involved a much smaller amount of narcotics, on average between 3 to 4 kilograms,” the foreign affairs official pointed out.

Noh Kwang-il, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said yesterday that it was “regrettable that our people were executed in China for drug crimes.”

He said the ministry will “continue to take all measures to assist Korean citizens abroad no matter what difficult situations they face.”

Amnesty International lists China as having the highest number of executions, estimating that thousands of sentences are carried out each year.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]




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