Legislative Majority Seeks Execution Ban

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Legislative Majority Seeks Execution Ban

A group of 154 lawmakers from all political sides of the National Assembly have cosponsored a bill to eliminate the death penalty in Korea.

The proposal, led by Representative Chyung Dai-chul of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party, Representative Lee Bu-young of the main opposition Grand National Party and Representative Chung Woo-taik of the minor opposition United Liberal Democrats, will be presented to the full Assembly on Tuesday.

"It is a contradiction to take the life of a criminal in the name of justice. The death penalty absolutely denies the possibility of reform, improvement and return of the criminal to civil society," the three lawmakers said as they announced the measure.

The proposal for a special law also aims to eliminate a current provision in the law that forbids parole, amnesty or a reduction in the sentence of any person sentenced to life imprisonment before they complete 15 years of the sentence.

The co-sponsors represent a majority in the 273-seat Assembly, but only five lawmakers of the Assembly's 15-member Legislative and Judiciary Committee have signed onto the measure.

Three more lawmakers are needed for the bill to have majority support in the committee and be forwarded to the Assembly floor. If it makes its way to deliberation by the full Assembly, it would require 137 votes to be approved. Only if 18 sponsors change their minds could that occur.

The bill is an ambitious plan to eliminate all death penalty provisions in the nation's criminal and military penal codes.

The revision would mandate the revision of several other laws, such as the National Security Law, the Narcotics Law and the Act on the Punishment of Sexual Crimes and Protection of Victims Thereof.

According to Mr. Chyung's office, 89 persons were executed in Korea from 1990 through 1997

Since 1998, there have been no executions here. Several civic groups have called for a ban on the death sentence; the Roman Catholic archbishop here, Cardinal Stephen Kim, did so last week. But support for death sentences, including in the legal community, is also substantial.

"New York state had a decrease in horrific crimes since it reinstated the death sentence. It is premature to abolish the death sentence when we see a rise in crimes of bizarre dimension," said Choi Yong-seok, a lawyer.

by Kim Jung-ha

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