November 24, 2004 14:48
Whenever news breaks of a deadly killer here in Korea, as has been the case this year with the arrest of the country's deadliest serial killer, Yoo Young-chul, who is currently on trial, it re-ignites the debate over the death penalty. With a bill to abolish capital punishment to be submitted for parliamentary approval this week, Koreans are examining the pros and cons of the death penalty.
All eyes are on a bill to abolish capital punishment in South Korea, which gained a majority backing at the National Assembly on Monday. It will be submitted to the Legislation and Judiciary Committee for parliamentary approval this week. The bill proposes that the death penalty be replaced with life imprisonment, which many regard as a humane alternative. Lawmakers have tried to pass this bill twice, once in 1999 and then in 2001, but both attempts failed to gain the support of the parliamentary committee.
Life imprisonment term suggested in the latest bill should be differentiated from an indeterminate prison sentence that could be followed with conditions such as a reprieve or a parole. Lawmakers are advocating an imprisonment for life without any kind of reprieve prior to death. In the United States, a similar system exists.
Though many states don't separate life imprisonment from an indeterminate sentence under the federal criminal code, a life sentence from a federal court results in imprisonment for the defendant's life.
However in the U.K., life imprisonment doesn't mean a life sentence, and its prison terms average 15 years before the first parole hearing. Capital punishment exists in 78 countries including the U.S. and Japan, and in 2003, more than a thousand inmates on death row were executed in 28 countries.
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