A petition has been launched calling for harsher drunk driving penalties in South Korea after a Taiwanese doctoral student was killed by an inebriated driver earlier this month in Seoul.
On the evening of Nov. 6, 28-year-old theology student Tseng Yi-lin (曾以琳) was walking home from her professor’s house — crossing the road at a green pedestrian light — when she was hit by a drunk driver.
South Korean authorities told Tseng’s parents that the driver would receive a lighter punishment “because the accident happened while the perpetrator was drunk,” the petition said.
In response, friends of Tseng on Monday initiated a petition on the petition portal of the Blue House’s Web site calling for harsher penalties for drunk driving.
Drunk driving accidents “can happen to any of our family and friends, regardless of nationality, age or gender,” the petition says.
“Drinking and driving is premeditated murder, and requires more, not less, severe punishment than other crimes,” it adds.
Tseng’s father, Tseng Ching-hui (曾慶暉) — head of anesthesiology at the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Chiayi Hospital — also sent a letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, representatives and officials, which said that harsher penalties could act as a deterrent.
“How can such a tragedy be prevented from happening again if they only face a few short years in prison?” he asked. “This is the last thing we can do for our daughter.”
Five of Tseng Yi-lin’s childhood friends on Wednesday uploaded a video on YouTube urging people to sign the petition.
“To prevent more regrettable incidents from happening, we invite everyone to sign the petition to make not only the South Korean government, but people around the world pay more attention to the problem of drunk driving,” a friend said in the video.
The South Korea government is required to respond to a petition that collects 200,000 signatures or more within 30 days.
The petition must gather at least 200,000 signatures by Dec. 23 to receive a response from Seoul. As of yesterday, it had received more than 140,000 signatures.
After army conscript and student Yoon Chang-ho was killed in a drunk driving incident in 2018, South Korea’s National Assembly passed two acts in his name.
The first act, enacted that year, raised penalties for fatal drunk driving accidents to between three years and life imprisonment from at least one year to life.
In April, the South Korean Supreme Court revised its sentencing guidelines to recommend two to five years in prison for drunk driving offenders involved in a fatal accident, the Korea Times reported.
The recommended sentence would be raised to between four and eight years for repeat offenders, and up to 12 years for more heavily criticized cases, with room for heavier punishments if warranted, the court said.
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