On Friday, July 24, South Korea’s National Assembly passed the Statute of Limitations for Murder Revocation Law, commonly known as “Taewan Law,” abolishing the statute of limitations regarding homicides.
A statute of limitations is a law that prevents prosecutors from charging a person accused of a crime after a certain period of time, and its objective is to ensure that convictions are based on clear evidence that has not been destroyed or changed. After the statute of limitation expires, no criminal charges may be filed in a case.
Taewan Law was named after the victim of the so-called “Daegu Child Sulphuric Acid Terror.” Sixteen years ago, a six-year-old boy named Taewan suffered from third-degree burns after a man poured sulphuric acid all over his body. The child’s testimony corresponded with that of a witness, yet police did not find enough evidence to convict a suspect and Taewan died 49 days after the incident. On July 10 of this year, the Supreme Court ruled that the statute of limitations on the case had expired because the crime pre-dated a 2007 reform extending the statute from 15 to 25 years.
According to the National Police Agency, in the last five years there have been 1289 unsolved cases of violent crime for which the statute of limitations has expired. Thus, some people believe it should be repealed in other crimes as well.
“Not only [for] murder, but the statute of limitations should be abolished for other types of violent crime – drug-related crime, and organized crime, too,” said Mr.Park, a prosecuting attorney, in an interview with JSR.
“Sometimes, the criminal is caught after the statute of limitations is expired,” Mr. Park continued. “In that case, nothing can be done about it. This will only make the casualties feel more victimized.”
However, some people aren’t sure the statute of limitations is necessary in crimes other than murder.
“The statute of limitations is unnecessary for murder, for a murderer must pay the heavy penalty for death, no matter when they are caught,” said Mrs. Chang, a lawyer, in an interview with JSR. “For other types of crime, the intense mental pressure and anxiety one would have to go through as a fugitive… is enough.”
Both lawyers asked to be identified only by their family names due to the sensitive nature of this issue and their concern for their professional reputations.
Due to Taewan Law, murder cases such as the famous November 2003 kidnapping of a teenager that was dubbed the “Pocheon Middle School Student Murder,” are ready for long-term investigation. That case’s statute of limitations was set to expire in 2018; now, without the statute of limitations, police can further investigate the incident.
However, Taewan’s case is not retroactively covered by the law that bears his name.