Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Executions will do the trick!"

The ruling Hannara Party is reacting to the public outcry about the recent kidnapping, rape, and murder of a thirteen-year-old girl in Pusan by saying South Korea should end its moratorium on capital punishment in favor of swift executions:
A ruling party leader said Thursday that South Korea should end its de-facto moratorium on capital punishment and swiftly execute those convicted of rape or serial murders, amid a nationwide outrage over the brutal rape and killing of a 13-year-old girl.

"Public opinion is boiling to a point where people want swift executions of rapists and serial killers on death row who have given up on being a human being. That is also in line with justice and the rule of law," said Ahn Sang-soo, floor leader of the Grand National Party, at a meeting of the party's supreme council.

The remark came amid an uproar after a 13-year-old girl was found dead over the weekend, about two weeks after she went missing in the southeastern port city of Busan. Police have determined that she was raped before being murdered, and a 33-year-old suspect was apprehended on Wednesday near the scene of the crime.

South Korea still issues the death penalty, but has not carried out an execution since February 1998 when then President Kim Dae-jung -- who was himself sentenced to death in 1980 but later pardoned -- took office.

In 2007, Amnesty International categorized South Korea as a country that has "virtually abolished capital punishment," as it has not carried out an execution since late 1997, when 23 convicts were executed.
This is completely the wrong reaction, mostly for the reasons I have mentioned before.

What South Korea needs to try first is stepped up law enforcement, better surveillance and longer sentences for repeat sex offenders, education to spot sexual abuse, and a host of other things. One thing the authorities are considering doing is to retroactively implement the Sex Offenders Law, which would require sex offenders to wear electronic anklets for monitoring even if they were convicted before the provision was made law.

And when so many police stations represent the quality of CSI technology from the Sherlock Holmes era, how much faith should we have that "swift executions" will never snare the wrong person. In the past, South Korean law enforcement had a bad habit of finding some body when there was nobody to arrest. Heck, the US was not much better, as we've seen with some of the people released from death row in the past years.

No, bringing back the death penalty for quicker executions is not the answer and it won't decrease such tragedies as this girl's brutal death one iota. Try again.


  1. "What South Korea needs to try first is stepped up law enforcement, better surveillance and longer sentences for repeat sex offenders, education to spot sexual abuse, and a host of other things."

    All that costs money. If you don't have appeal and litigation hell than executions are a hell of a lot more cheaper.

  2. No system should race to execute people swiftly simply because the goal is to save money. People's live are at stake.

  3. And like I said, the executions will really do little to reduce the amount of executable crime that occur. It's a band-aid, feel-good solution to a problem that does require money and manpower.

  4. "People's live are at stake."

    Exactly... and these lives tend to be the lives of children, minors and the lives of women. These lives need protection more than the lives of conficted murderers.

  5. Okay, I don't think I'm explaining my point very well, so I'll try again.

    "Swift executions" is a reactionary "feel good" measure designed to placate an anxious public. There are two problems with this approach. First, it does nothing to stop such crimes in the future but it has a tendency to cause the public and policymakers to feel as if something was done, so they are less likely to push for the kinds of police reform that will actually lead to a more aggressive reduction of this crime (in the forms I mention above).

    Second, because of a push to placate the public by finding a person to convict, they sometimes convict the wrong person. This happens far more often than one thinks, and we can see it in Korea (the case of Kenneth Markle, whom the Korean prosecutors hinted they thought was not the guilty party — hence the reduction of his sentence from 40 years to 14 — is an example of this).

    So "swift executions" will mean, in some cases, just faster killing of innocent people, those whom you have written off as "the convicted."

    Capital punishment is a red herring.

  6. You clearly feel passionate about this.

  7. I wrote a brief post concerning Korean peoples' sense of justice and how restorative justice could do this society quite a bit of good.

    Like you said, Koreans are very reactionary and like results and compensation. Restorative justice techniques between victim and offender have seen many positive effects (reduced recidivism)in the West particularly in violent cases such as murder and rape. I think we've all seen how small group (village-like) mentality is still very much present here in Korea and restorative justice is somewhat of a throwback to the idea that crimes are not committed against a state, but rather against the community and individuals.

    Korea should look into it, no? I'd love if you read my post and gave me some feedback.

    Here's the post or just click on the icon next to my name.


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