South Korea's Supreme Court has recently sentenced a 46-year-old man to 10 years of imprisonment for subjecting his intellectually disabled younger brother to alcohol and drug influence and abandoning him near a stream, leading to his death by drowning.
According to the top court on Monday, it upheld the commuted sentence for the man, who had earlier been sentenced to a 30-year imprisonment by a district court.
The man, surnamed Lee, offered his younger brother, then 38, whisky and sleeping pills. A few hours later, Lee brought his brother to a stream terrace near Wangsukcheon in the city of Namyangju, Gyeonggi Province in June 2021. Lee then left his brother, leaving him to die by drowning in the stream.
The focal point of the court case was whether to view Lee's action as murder.
A district court found the man guilty of multiple counts, including murder and mishandling drugs, and handed down a 30-year jail term.
The appellate court, however, gave the defendant a commuted sentence of 10 years behind bars, given a lack of evidence that Lee had committed a murder by directly drowning his brother to death.
The appellate court cited the possibility that the younger brother may have slipped and drowned as he was intoxicated by drugs and alcohol while left unattended.
Abandonment leading to death of a dependent in need of protection is punishable by at least three years of imprisonment under the Criminal Act of Korea. A murder of a family member can be punished for at least seven years.
The plaintiff appealed to the Supreme Court, but the top court in May upheld the appeals court ruling.
As a result, Lee was convicted of multiple counts -- abandonment that caused death under the Criminal Act and violation of the Narcotics Control Act.
Lee has also been reportedly engaged in a separate legal dispute with his uncle – who holds conservatorship over his younger brother’s assets -- over inheritance money from their parents worth about 3.4 billion won ($2.6 million). The prosecutors have claimed that Lee had intended to kill his younger brother to take all the inheritance money.