Korean Church urges country to abolish death penalty

South Korea's Catholic Church leaders, rights activists, and politicians gathered at the National Assembly on Oct. 10 for the World Day Against the Death Penalty to call on their country's parliament to legally abolish the death sentence.

(REUTERS / Jenevieve Robbins / Texas Dept of Criminal Justice / Handout via Reuters)The death chamber is seen through the steel bars from the viewing room at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas in this September 29, 2010 handout file photo.

The event on Tuesday was organized by the Korean bishops' Committee for Justice and Peace and lawmaker Fidelis Lee Sang-min. The day also commemorated the 20th year of the suspension of state executions in South Korea, UCA News detailed.

"Today's event is a stepping stone for South Korea to make its journey from moratorium of death sentence to its legal abolition. Only when the value of human life is respected, the cruelty of humanity can be cured," said CBCK committee president Bishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik of Daejeon. "Now it's time for the National Assembly to answer our calls by presenting a bill to abolish it and passing it."

National Assembly speaker Chung Sye-kyun acknowledged that there are those who think capital punishment should stay. However, he said the assembly will do its best to scrap it in a legal process.

As of now, there are still 61 individuals on death row in South Korea. However, the country has not executed a convict since Dec. 30, 1997, even though its capital punishment was still stipulated in its criminal law.

South Korea may be considered a de facto abolitionist nation, but the same could not be said of its neighbor North Korea. In August, the reclusive state had given the death sentence to four South Korean journalists for allegedly insulting it, NDTV reported.

The death sentence stems from conservative newspapers Chosun Ilbo and Dong-A Ilbo's review of the North Korean edition of the book "North Korea Confidential," which chronicles the daily lives of people in the reclusive state. The North's Central Court said reviewing the book is a "hideous crime of seriously insulting the dignity of the DPRK."