As Lee Kwi-nam is appointed the new Minister of Justice of South Korea, Amnesty International calls on him to immediately introduce a moratorium on executions and commute all the death sentences in the country.
Since the beginning of 2009, Amnesty International has been concerned that the South Korean government is taking steps towards resuming executions.
A consultative meeting took place on 12 February involving the ruling Grand National Party, Korean National Police, and Ministries of Justice and Public Administration and Security to discuss whether to execute the 58 inmates currently on death row and to introduce life imprisonment without the possibility of commutation. The meeting came at a time of public anger, following the arrest of a man for the alleged murder of seven women.
Despite retaining the death penalty within its legislation, the last executions in South Korea were carried out in December 1997, when 23 people were executed.
Since November 1999 four bills on the abolition of the death penalty have been introduced to successive South Korea National Assemblies.
On all four occasions, the National Assembly Legal and Judiciary Committee (LJC) did not finalise its examination of the abolition bills before the closure of the National Assembly sessions and the bills therefore lapsed.
Since 2007, two new bills to abolish the death penalty have been introduced in National Assembly are currently under consideration.
Three new death sentences were imposed in 2008 and 60 prisoners currently remain under sentence of death. Amnesty International calls on the Minister of Justice of South Korea to immediately establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty as provided by UN General Assembly resolution 62/149 and resolution 63/168 and commute all death sentences in the country.
Picture caption: World Day Against the Death Penalty, South Korea, 10 October 2009. Copyright: Amnesty International