Parents in South Korea who kill newborns now face death penalty after law passed
SEOUL - South Korea on Tuesday passed a Bill punishing abandonment and killing of infants more severely, including possible capital punishment for infanticide, after a revision that comes 70 years since those sections of the criminal code were first enacted.
Before the revision, penalties for abandoning an infant or an infant dying as a result of abandonment were mitigated under certain circumstances. The mitigating circumstances included when the offender – the mother, her parents or her partner – is believed to be unable to raise or look after the infant.
The revision increases the maximum penalty for infant abandonment to three years of jail or a fine of five million won (S$5,230) from the current two years’ jail or three million won.
Also under the revision, the most severe penalty for killing an infant is a life sentence or the death penalty, with the current maximum of 10 years of jail scrapped.
The Bill’s passage came amid opposition from the minor progressive Justice Party.
The party said toughening penalties without adequate measures to expand support for single mothers, especially those who are teens, was feared to push women experiencing unwanted pregnancies into riskier situations.
Most culprits of infant abandonment or killing are younger women without a partner, statistics show.
According to government statistics released by National Assembly Deputy Speaker and People Power Party Representative Chung Woo-taik’s office earlier in July, about eight in 10 offenders convicted of infant killing in the last nine years were teens or women in their 20s.
A series of shocking child abuse or infanticide cases came to light after the government launched an investigation in March to check on the well-being of more than 2,000 undocumented babies born since 2015.
A South Korean woman in her 30s was found in June to have kept two infant bodies in a freezer at her apartment in Suwon.
In July, a couple was detained under suspicion of murder after allegedly strangling their five-day-old son and abandoning his body at a nearby river in Geoje, South Gyeongsang province.
World News index: