The decision of a Seoul appeals court to commute the death sentence given to the murderer Oh Won-chun to a life sentence has led to overwhelming protest from all levels of Korean society. The court’s specific rationale for the change in sentencing was new analysis that Oh dismembered the victim’s body because he wanted to hide the evidence rather than because he wanted to distribute the meat to someone else. The dismemberment led some to believe that the murder was part of Chinese organ trafficking.
Amid the ghastly weekly stories of rape or murder, the April case [covered by koreaBANG in detail here] that saw Oh Won–chun rape a woman, murder her and carve her body in 365 pieces, left a lasting impression due to the brutality of the crime and the fact that Oh is an ethnic Chinese-Korean who killed a young Korean woman. Online, “throw them in a prison cell with Oh Won-chun” has become a curse for particularly offensive individuals.
Politicians have added their voices to criticism of the sentencing. During a public hearing on October 19th at the National Assembly, legislators from across the political spectrum condemned the appeals court decision. Assembly Member Kim Hak-yong stated, “it is not right for the courts to pass down a verdict which contradicts public opinion or the social atmosphere.” At the initial sentencing, the public prosecutor stated that surveys indicated 72% support for the death penalty among South Koreans.
The most emotional opposition to the change in sentencing came from the brother of a woman murdered in July on the island of Jeju. The man wrote that he would burn himself alive in protest in front of any courthouse that gave his sister’s killer a similar life sentence rather than an order of execution.
From NoCut News:
“A Life Sentence for Oh Won-chun? I Hate this Country”
Transcript of an October 19th radio interview with the family of the victim:
The case of Oh Won-chun, convicted of the kidnapping, sexual assault, murder, and butchery of a young woman in the city of Suwon has drawn public indignation. Yesterday, the Seoul High Court announced that Oh would receive a sentence of life imprisonment. The initial court ruled that Oh should receive a death sentence. The commutation of the sentence has led to strong public protest. An auditory investigation of the National Assembly Judicial Committee also criticized commuting the sentence. The strongest protest has come from the family of the victim, who we hear from now. The speaker is the older sister of the victim, the last one to live with her, and along with the police, searched for her younger sibling. She will remain anonymous during this interview. How are you doing?
Reporter: You were in the courtroom yesterday?
Family Member: Yes
Reporter: Did you have any idea that the courts would decide to give a life sentence?
Family Member: I had no idea they would do so.
Reporter: You believed they were going to announce a death sentence, correct?
Family Member: Yes, of course. I thought it was only right to hand down a death sentence.
Reporter: What did the court say when they announced the commutation of the sentence?
Family Member: They said he had lived honestly, that they believed he would not commit a similar crime in the future. They had no words for the rights of the victim, only listening to what the perpetrator had to say and only taking him into account when deciding on a sentence.
Reporter: You are unable to accept the court’s opinion, am I right?
Family Member: Of course.
Reporter: If we look at some of the points that have been brought up in reports, the differences between the initial court ruling and the appeals court, the first difference seems to be whether this was an accidental act or whether it was planned. We…
Family Member: Oh, the initial ruling was completely reversed. The first ruling clearly said that this crime was planned in advance, that he committed it with malicious intentions, and that he was planning to distribute [the body]. The appeals court changed the story and said that it was now a crime without intent, that he came out beside the telephone pole and then did what he did. A complete change in the story.
Reporter: So the issue now for the victim’s family, as I can tell, is that this was a crime committed to obtain human flesh, am I right?
Family Member: Well, the things is, we are now saying that it was for distributing human flesh, but the government is trying to conceal that fact.
Reporter: They’re trying to conceal it?
Family Member: Yes, so because of that, they’re trying to sweep that under the rug, for someone who so brutally killed another person… it’s only right, only appropriate that such a person be executed.
Reporter: Why do you believe that the courts are trying to conceal the true objective of the crime?
Reporter: What draws you to believe that?
Family Member: These days our society is filled with so many cases of sexual assault, it has changed into an extremely terrifying society. If word spreads that the murder was committed to obtain human flesh than people will be scared and have a hard time going on, it is to prevent that from happening that they are trying to hide the facts of the case. I… I really hate this country.
Reporter: The new sentence must have stirred up painful memories of the past, new trauma.
Family Member: Of course. I mean, how brutally must one person kill another before they earn the death penalty… I want to know how much more horrifying the crime must be before they will decide on an execution. Criminals must be delighted by how this crime has only resulted in a life sentence.
Reporter: I understand. I hope that the family of the victim and the parents receive psychological counseling and are able to recover in the future. Thank you for agreeing to today’s interview.
Comments from Nocut News:
Calculated murder must receive a sentence of death, only by carrying through on such punishment will crime fall
They should closely investigate the progressive politicians, the professors, and the NGOs who strongly oppose the death sentence
Because of Lee Myung-bak morality has hit rock bottom and people like Oh Won-chun show up, receiving a life sentence. Would the judge have given the same verdict if it had been his daughter? Does anyone think that is possible?
Such a heinous bastard, if not the death sentence then what? What are we supposed to do? I can do nothing but curse this
It is worth remembering that the Democratic Party opposes the death penalty And I’m not pointing that out because anyone is paying me to do so.
I hate this! The judges commuted it to a life sentence!! Get out of this country.. Useless judges!!!
Those judges should be dismissed!
Well, Korea is falling into chaos already, let’s see how far we go..! I think all of us are going to need a crossbow arrow.. [reference to a well known case where a citizen threatened a judge with a crossbow]
Judge saekki. You give a beast like that a life sentence. Isn’t it common sense that it is important to make an example out of this criminal and execute him? Are you a member of Oh’s family or something? These bastard judges need to start by being aware of the surveys. You don’t even read about the anger of the people? Would you have ever commuted the sentence if it had been your daughter..
he he Oh cuts someone into 360 pieces and you call it accidental, then give him a life sentence? Perhaps if he had eaten all of the pieces then you could have skipped even calling it an unplanned murder and just dismissed the case… Such ridiculous cases, how can you call it a decision… he he he
Hey judges, if our citizens had done the same thing in China they would have just executed him.. have you ever considered that???
Comments from The Chosun Ilbo:
These useless courts, commuting the sentence of such a murderer, are you even human?
While it is unfair to take the one precious life that belongs to a cruel murderer like Oh Won-chun, it seems unfair as well to give a man like that a clean end. After cutting up the body and committing such horrible acts.. Far from realizing how terrible his crime was or comprehending his acts this obvious criminal appeals on the basis on unfairness. The judge seems crazy to have passed down such a verdict
They should give all judges a test of common sense and immediately fire those who fail. They have to have some decency! Without fail, there always seems to be someone who thinks thoughts that are coming from another country and who ends up tormenting our citizens. Fire those who dump stress upon our people. It seems like it will be a long time before they are brought to reality.
It seems like murderers are committing their crime with a belief that they will not incur the death penalty. Even if you kill someone and receive a life sentence, it is possible to wait roughly 20 years and gain early release. Knowing this, murderers do not waver in their plans to kill people. It must be said that judges have played a role in creating the large number of murders.
The sadness of the victim’s family, who know that she was murdered for no reason, must be eternal. However, focusing on whether the butchery of the body was intended to aid distribution to people who want human flesh or to cover up a crime ignore the sentiments of the people. Those who kill another human being must be given the death penalty.
Comments from Nocut News (2):
Never using the death penalty… they need to get themselves straight… pay attention now.. all you do is keep them in prison for life and give them three square meals a day, is that all? They should, just, cut off both of their arms… cut off one leg… crush the remaining leg below the knee… tattoo and brand the name “Oh Won-chun” on his face… then let them out of prison…they can do what they want afterwards whether they get beat up or not, or commit suicide. There’s no reason to treat them like a human being.
Just announcing that he will receive a death penalty is not the end of it all. There should be a follow up investigation into whether there was a connection to an organ trafficking organization and why there were two months missing from his phone records. Only then can we prevent a re-occurrence of such crimes. If there is an organ trafficking organization, then they will just lay low for a few months and then start up their operations again. Politicians will never start such an investigation on their own but do they know the reason why it is impossible to find missing persons? If we are talking about organ trafficking, then it is possible there would be no body to find. There are many ways for crime to occur.
Come on, what is our country doing? Isn’t it important to find out who ate what and who ordered such a crime? You knock on any door and hear praise for Kim Jong-un and people go out to eat mutton at a Chinese-Korean restaurant, perhaps it’s human flesh that they are eating. What a state in our country.
All the talk of death penalties is just talk….there are so many people in this country who go without food and we give that saekki three square meals a day??? He must think he’s lucky, kills someone and never needs to worry again about finding a meal
If they say that there was production and distribution of human flesh then there must also be someone who sells it and someone who consumes it, right? Catch them all…