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S. Korea pushing for official declaration on abolition of death penalty

All Headlines 15:42 June 18, 2018

SEOUL, June 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is pushing for a presidential declaration on the abolition of capital punishment, the state human rights watchdog said Monday, resuming efforts toward doing away with the long-disputed measure, in step with the growing international trend.

"We are working to bring an announcement by President Moon Jae-in on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty around the time of this year's 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," Shim Sang-don, chief of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)'s policy and education bureau, told reporters.

Such a moratorium would be one step in the formal process toward abolition. The watchdog has started working-level discussion with the Ministry of Justice for action plans, Shim added.

South Korea retains capital punishment as part of state-sanctioned practices for punishing serious crimes. But it has not carried out a death sentence on prisoners on death row since December 1997, nor has the country officially declared its discontinuance.

The NHRC has maintained its stance in support of repealing the death penalty, citing international standards. The watchdog recommended its abolishment to the National Assembly in April 2005 and submitted a similar petition to the Constitutional Court in July 2009.

Public opinion is largely in line with moves to abolish the measure, but failure to reach consensus on alternatives to replace it with has held back the move.

Shim indicated that the situation may be different this time.

"President Moon gave a positive response regarding abolition when we brought up the issue at the meeting last December," he said.

The NHRC plans to hold a hearing on capital punishment in September and carry out research on the issue, with a focus on alternative measures.

Data from correctional authorities show that there are currently a total of 61 prisoners, including military officers, that have been sentenced to death in South Korea.

S. Korea pushing for official declaration on abolition of death penalty - 1

elly@yna.co.kr
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