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Justice Ministry moves to nix execution sunset clause

April 12, 2023 - 15:17 By Son Ji-hyoung
A visual concept image of a prisoner (123rf)

The Ministry of Justice on Wednesday announced plans to clear the way for the execution of inmates who have been on death row for over 30 years through a law revision.

Those who are sentenced to the death penalty will no longer be able to avoid execution according to the revision proposed by the Justice Ministry. The government is to put up the legislative notice for the revision Thursday, after which it requires parliamentary approval.

Under the current rules, an execution must take place within 30 years after the sentencing of the top court here. An inmate on death row will be exempted from the penalty otherwise, due to the 30-year period for prescribing an execution.

The Justice Ministry said in a statement that its proposed revision is designed to ward off confusion with regard to whether those on death row would be able to avert capital punishment.

The revision comes as Korea is scheduled to see its first death row prisoner to be removed from death row after 30 years in November. The man, surnamed Won, has so far spent 29 years and four months behind bars after his death sentence was confirmed in November 1993. He set a fire at a Jehovah's Witnesses church that killed 15 out of anger that his wife became a Jehovah's witness. Won is 65.

Korea is anticipating four more such cases in 2024 and five more in 2025.

Korea has yet to formally abolish capital punishment, but no execution has taken place since 1998. The nation has 59 prisoners on death row.