The father of a Taiwanese woman who was killed by a drunk driver in Seoul in 2020 was disappointed by the South Korea Supreme Court's recent rejection of the driver's eight-year prison sentence, a decision that could result in a more lenient penalty.
The father, Tseng Kin-fui (???), told CNA on Friday that he was "extremely disappointed by South Korea's legal system" and said he and his wife were both heartbroken and exhausted after learning the news.
His late daughter, Elaine Tseng (???), was a Ph.D student at Torch Trinity Graduate University in Seoul. On Nov. 6, 2020, she was hit and killed at the age of 28 by a drunk driver, surnamed Kim, who ran a red light as she was walking home from a professor's residence.
In an interview Friday, her father, an anesthesiologist at the publicly-run Chiayi Hospital, expressed confusion over the Supreme Court's order for a retrial after it determined the tougher punishment for a repeat drunk driver offender like Kim was unconstitutional.
While countries like Taiwan are stiffening DUI laws, South Korea is going backwards, he argued.
In the first trial of the case earlier this year, Kim was sentenced to eight years in prison even though prosecutors only sought a six-year jail term.
An appellate court then upheld the conviction and sentence in August based on 2018 revisions of a traffic act that became known as the Yoon Chang-ho Act.
Yoon was killed by a repeat drunk driver offender, which led to a public outcry for heavier punishments for such criminals, and the revisions named after him mandated harsher penalties for repeat DUI offenders.
In November, however, South Korea's Constitutional Court struck down the revisions as unconstitutional, arguing that the definition of a "repeat" offender was too vague, according to South Korean media.
That led the Supreme Court's decision on Dec. 30 to send the case back to the appellate court, asking it to apply a drunk driving law that does not stipulate tougher penalties for repeat offenders, South Korean media said.
Using another law will likely reduce the driver's sentence, a situation that left the victim's parents disillusioned.
Tseng Kin-fui said he will continue to appeal the Supreme Court's ruling and carry out public campaigns that were launched after his daughter's death to raise anti-DUI awareness in South Korea.
The campaigns include a petition initiated by Tseng Kin-fui, his wife and a South Korean friend of their daughter that has been posted on the presidential office website Cheong Wa Dae.
The petition calls for the maximum sentence for vehicular homicide to be raised, to ensure that the punishment will be severe enough to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel