|Amnesty International supporters parody an execution at the Press Center in Seoul on Oct. 10, 2007, as part of the human rights group's push to encourage South Korea to abolish the death penalty. / Korea Times file|
By Ko Dong-hwan
|Hong Joon-pyo||Moon Jae-in|
Conservative Liberty Korea Party candidate Hong Joon-pyo asked Democratic Party of Korea's Moon Jae-in in the debate on JTBC whether it is legal.
"It is not a matter of being legal or illegal," Moon said. "Although the Constitutional Court ruled the system legal, I personally think it should be abolished. Korea has not enforced the system for the past 20 years, making it practically dead in this country."
Hong replied: "We have not abolished it. We simply did not execute it. The system's absence has fanned criminals like serial killers, making them rampage."
Moon did not back away, calling the death penalty "ineffective" for reining in criminals. "The whole world knows about the system's ineffectiveness," Moon said.
A Hankook Ilbo-Korea Times survey following the debate showed Moon leading the presidential race with over 40 percent support.
The death penalty was last carried out on Dec. 30, 1997, under the Kim Young-sam administration, when 23 prisoners were executed. The next president, Kim Dae-joong, did not support the system and never saw prisoners on death row. Following administrations have also kept their distance.
The first execution was in 1949 for murder, while over 1,300 people are estimated to have been on death row in Korea. Sixty-one people had a death sentence hanging over them as of February last year.
Non-government organization Amnesty International regards any nation that has not "pushed the button" for 10 years or longer to have abolished the death penalty. It estimates that as of this year, 104 countries have scrapped capital punishment.