Lenient punishment in Korea

From what I hear, the number of crimes in Korea is increasing day by day, and society may be losing it stability due to lenient punishments.

First of all, though Korea does have capital punishment, there have been no executions for the past 20 years. Even in the case of an atrocious murder where the murderer disposed of the victim’s body by cutting it into pieces, the murderer was not sentenced to capital punishment. There is no capital punishment even for brutal murderers who reenact their crimes nonchalantly at the scenes of crime, and still ridicule and curse the families of their victims while being dragged away by the police. Instead of a death penalty, they are sentenced to life in prison, and the families of the victims are always in fear of the possibility that those killers might be released in the future. Even after the police caught those killers after months and years of strenuous struggle spending enormous amounts of tax money, those killers could be released one day.

Even the U.S., a country that puts the highest regard on human rights, executes dozens of criminals per year, since it believes that capital punishment makes a big difference in the prevention of brutal crimes. This is based on studies that show that the fear of capital punishment might make possible killers hesitate before they commit a murder. Of course, opposition to capital punishment has grown worldwide for the reason that it is seen as a form of brutal revenge. However, 58 countries still maintain a capital punishment system, and support for capital punishment has recently been growing. It is time for us to seriously study the possibility of allowing capital punishment at least for cruel serial killers.

It is desirable to reform the probation system by adopting a system similar to the one in the U.S. For example, a few days ago, the Supreme Court of Korea upheld the original decision by a lower court that sentenced a former Air Force Chief of Staff who sold military secrets to a U.S. defense contractor for 2.5 billion won to 10 months in prison with a suspension for two years. It was reported by some of the press that the prison sentence was upheld, and many people would believe that the person will be in jail for 10 months. In fact, he may not serve the 10 months if he does not break parole for the next two years. I hear that there has been almost no case where someone went to prison during their time of probation. The punishment, a ten-month prison sentence suspended for two years, is very likely to give the wrong impression of actual penal servitude to ordinary people. For this reason, I think that if someone is sentenced to 10 months in prison with probation for two years, it is desirable to put the person on a two-year probation after serving the 10-month prison term just as they do in the U.S.

With petty criminals, I think that the current monetary punishment worth two to three million won has no effect on those who commit shameful, immoral crimes that disturb public order, such as a drunken brawling, reckless speeding in an expensive foreign sports car at night, sexual harassment, defrauding old people and women of their pocket money, picking pockets, etc. I believe that these criminals should be punished strictly. To change their bad habits, judicial corporal punishment is needed. This form of punishment was once used around the world to punish and prevent crimes. In 1776, the U.S. Congress allowed President Washington to flog soldiers up to 100 times for discipline. Corporal punishment disappeared in the U.S., criticized as an act of barbarism which was used against black slaves, but it is still in use now after three hundred years in thirty-three countries. The primary example is Singapore. It is expanding corporal punishment as the city has been cleaned up and petty crimes like drunken violence have disappeared since the adoption of corporal punishment.

In 1994, an American teenager, Michael Fay, visited his mother in Singapore and pulled mischievous pranks such as vandalizing cars parked in the street and changing the direction of road signs, thinking lightly of the people there. He was arrested by the police and sentenced to six strokes of caning. It is said that the caning is so painful that it requires the presence of a doctor, and six strokes has to be divided into three per week as one cannot endure more than three strokes at a time. The American public criticized the barbaric punishment at the time, and President Clinton called the President of Singapore in person to reduce the punishment. The punishment was reduced to three strokes, and Fay changed into an exemplary teenager no longer causing such trouble after his return to the U.S. Watching this, it was an overwhelming opinion for some time among Americans that the U.S. should also introduce such a system.

To sum up, I think that heinous murderers should be executed. For other crimes, the suspension of a sentence should be abolished — for example, a nine-year prison sentence suspended for seven years should be nine years of actual penal servitude plus seven years of probation just as nine-year prison sentence with seven-year suspension or disqualification that Lee Seok-ki will serve for instigating a rebellion. And finally, corporal punishment should be added to the monetary penalty for crimes that are usually penalized with fines. I hope that experts in punishment will soon go to Singapore to study its corporal punishment system and publish the results of the study.

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