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Is death row legal in South Korea?


Death row is the sentence given to individuals who have committed a heinous crime and are deemed as a danger to society. While some countries have abolished it, others still practice it. This article aims to explore whether death row is legal in South Korea.

History of the Death Penalty in South Korea

The death penalty was first introduced in South Korea in 1948 and was used extensively during the military dictatorship era. However, since the country transitioned to democracy in 1987, there has been a decline in its use. In 1997, the country came under international pressure to abolish the death penalty, leading to a moratorium on executions that lasted until 2010.

Current Status of Death Penalty in South Korea

As of 2021, the death penalty is still legal in South Korea. However, it is rarely used with no executions carried out since 1997. The use of the death penalty requires approval from the President, and there are currently no inmates on death row.

Types of Crimes Punishable by Death

In South Korea, the death penalty can only be imposed for crimes such as murder, treason, espionage, terrorism resulting in death, and certain drug-related offenses. The severity and circumstances of the crime must be considered before imposition of the death penalty.

Judicial Process for Imposing Death Penalty

The judicial process for imposing the death penalty starts with a trial at the district court level. If found guilty, the case can be appealed up to two times. If the highest court upholds the verdict, the case is then forwarded to the President for approval of execution. The convicted person has a right to petition for a pardon or commutation of sentence.

Public Opinion on the Death Penalty in South Korea

A survey conducted by the Korean Institute of Criminology in 2019 found that 76.4% of Koreans support the death penalty. Supporters believe that it serves as a deterrent to crime and is necessary for justice to be served.

Opposition to the Death Penalty in South Korea

Opponents of the death penalty argue that it violates human rights and is an irreversible punishment that can lead to wrongful convictions. Various human rights organizations have called for the abolition of the death penalty in South Korea.

International Pressure to Abolish Death Penalty in South Korea

South Korea is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which prohibits the use of the death penalty except in exceptional circumstances. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has called on South Korea to abolish the death penalty, citing concerns about due process and fairness.

Alternatives to the Death Penalty

Some alternatives to the death penalty include life imprisonment without parole, which has been used in some countries as an effective substitute. Rehabilitation and reintegration into society through education and job training programs are also being explored as ways to reduce crime rates.


The death penalty is still legal in South Korea, but its use is rare. Public opinion is divided on its necessity, with supporters arguing that it serves as a deterrent and opponents claiming it violates human rights. International pressure to abolish the death penalty remains high, with alternatives such as life imprisonment without parole being explored.








How long is a life sentence in South Korea?

The length of time for a prison sentence in various countries differs. For example, in South Korea, it can be 10 years or until death. In Spain, the duration depends on the sentence. In Sweden, it can be 18 years or until death, but a parole hearing can be held after 10 years served, possibly leading to a later release on parole. In Switzerland, the duration can be 10 or 15 years, with the judge determining the specific length.

Where is death row legal?

The locations of death rows for male prisoners are listed by state, with examples being Arizona State Prison Complex – Eyman and Florence, Arkansas’ Varner Unit, and California’s San Quentin and Corcoran State Prisons.

What is Korea’s punishment for crimes?

There are various forms of punishment outlined in the criminal code, including capital punishment, hard labor imprisonment, regular imprisonment, disqualification, loss of rights due to criminal conviction, fines (both minor and major), and confiscation of property.

What is the No 1 cause of death in South Korea?

Stroke, a non-communicable disease, was the leading cause of death and disability in 2019 and has seen a 5.70% increase since 2009. The percentage change is displayed on the axis, ranging from -30% to 33%.

What is the youngest age to go to jail in Korea?

In South Korea, individuals under the age of 14 cannot be found guilty of a crime at present. Instead, these minors are directed towards social service programs or youth correctional facilities if they engage in criminal behavior.

How long can a US citizen live in South Korea?

An American citizen who possesses a current passport can travel to South Korea with a K-ETA for up to 90 days for tourism or visiting.

Challenges of Abolishing the Death Penalty in South Korea

Despite international pressure, abolishing the death penalty in South Korea has proven to be challenging. The country’s legal system is heavily influenced by Confucian principles, which emphasize the importance of social order and obedience to authority. Therefore, many people view harsh punishments such as the death penalty as necessary to maintain social order.

Furthermore, some politicians and law enforcement officials argue that the death penalty is necessary to combat serious crimes such as terrorism and drug trafficking. They also believe that the threat of the death penalty may serve as a deterrent to potential offenders.

The Role of Religion in the Death Penalty Debate

Religion also plays a role in the death penalty debate in South Korea. Christianity, Buddhism, and Confucianism are the three main religions in the country. While Christianity and Buddhism oppose the death penalty, Confucianism views it as a necessary punishment for maintaining social order.

However, many religious leaders are advocating for the abolition of the death penalty in South Korea. They argue that taking a life is morally wrong and that there are more effective ways to address crime and ensure public safety.

The Future of the Death Penalty in South Korea

The future of the death penalty in South Korea remains uncertain. While there is growing public support for its abolition, there is also significant opposition. The government will need to carefully consider both sides of the debate before making any decisions about its future use.

Ultimately, the decision to abolish or retain the death penalty will depend on whether South Korean society believes that it is a just and effective form of punishment. As attitudes towards crime and punishment continue to evolve, it is likely that the debate over the death penalty will continue for years to come.

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