The morality of capital punishment in Korea is very much a controversial subject, with citizens in favor of the penalty by a 6 to 4 margin. Although the government supports the penalty as a justifiable punishment for serious crimes, no one has been executed in recent years. In many countries the citizens, although opposed, have abolished the death penalty.
A lawyer appealing for a death row criminal gave his views on the subject in a recent article. His account, the story of a condemned criminal, Jacob, encourages us to once again reflect on the value of this ultimate punishment. .
The lawyer met the condemned man and the priest who had baptized him in the court house where he was appealing the verdict, and offered to defend Jacob.
The condemned man had been renting in the house of the murdered man and did confess to the crime. While in prison he wrote many letters of remorse to the Religious Sister, who regularly visited the prison. The judge of the case-- the last case he worked on before his promotion --was persuaded to change the punishment to life in prison--very fortunate for Jacob.
For the last 20 years in prison, Jacob had been sending a letter to the lawyer which arrived on every Wednesday of the week, without fail. The letter was full of praise and thanks to God and described how he was serving others who were in prison with him and about the joy that was in his life. That had been a goad for the lawyer in his own faith life.
Jacob was called "the monk" while in jail. In every trade or program offered by the prison, he either was awarded a licence or was certified as capably finishing the program. He won the tennis tournaments each year and in recent years had learned over 300 hymns that he could play with the harmonica.
Because he was a model prisoner, his sentence was commuted from life to 20 years, and just recently he was paroled. The lawyer finishes his article by asking for prayers for Jacob and his family.
There are many reasons for or against the death penalty but the fear of putting the innocent to death is uppermost for many. The difference between manslaughter and murder many times is a judgment made by lawyers and judges, but we also tend to forget the pain of the criminal's innocent family, as we tend to focus on the pain of the victim's family. What is often forgotten, however, is that those guilty of even the most serious crimes, whether intended or not, can turn their life around through remorse, as Jacob did, and become useful members of society.