Gov't seeks to heavily punish drunk driving

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Gov't seeks to heavily punish drunk driving

By Kim Hyun-bin

The government is seeking to strengthen punishment of drunk driving in the aftermath of a recent incident involving a soldier who was left brain dead after being hit by a drunk driver.

Nearly 270,000 people have signed an online petition on the Cheong Wa Dae website as of Thursday to urge the government to take stern action against the illegality.

The petition was posted by a friend of Yoon Chang-ho, the 22-year-old Korean soldier of the Korean Augmentation Troops to the United States Army (KATUSA), who fell victim to drunk driving last month and is currently in hospital.

According to the petition titled "Drunk driving destroyed my friend's life," Yoon was hit by a drunk driver in Busan on Sept. 25 while on leave during the Chuseok holiday. Yoon flew 15 meters and landed on concrete. He was taken to a hospital but was deemed brain dead.

The driver was totally intoxicated with a blood alcohol content of 0.181 percent, a level that could revoke his driver's license. The police investigated him twice without detention. Only after the public outrage emerged over the case, the police on Tuesday said they are looking to ask the prosecution to seek an arrest warrant.

Saying the nation's punishment for drunk driving is too lenient, the petitioner said, "While my friend is dying, I'm exploding with anger as the law, which should protect victims, is protecting offenders."

The petitioner said the government is taking a lukewarm attitude while the leniency will keep producing victims. "The illegal act, which takes a dear life, should not be punished lightly only because the offender was intoxicated."

Following the petition and public calls, President Moon Jae-in announced the government would strengthen regulations on drunk drivers.

"Drunk driving is not an accident, it could be an act of murder or destroy a person's entire life," Moon said in a meeting with top aides, Wednesday. "We need to end a culture that regards drunk driving as a mistake."

Moon added that drunk drivers have high re-offending rates, stressing the need for harsh punishment even for first-time offenders.

"Just last year alone, 45 percent of people caught for drunk driving committed a second offense, and 20 percent were caught for their third. Between 2005 and 2015, more than 10,000 people had their licenses canceled for drunk driving over three times. This shows drunk driving is rather a habit," Moon said.

The government is seeking to strengthen regulations by slapping stronger punishment on drunk drivers, punishing fellow passengers as well and confiscating cars of habitual drunk drivers, the President said.

"I urge related government bodies to come up with measures especially to prevent repeat offenses by enforcing stronger penalties for first-time offenders," Moon said.

Korean regulations have been lenient toward drunk driving cases compared to other developed nations.

In some states in the U.S., those who have killed people while driving drunk can be convicted of murder. In Norway, those caught for drunk driving twice are banned from obtaining a driver's license again for the rest of their lives.


By Kim Hyun-bin

The government is seeking to strengthen punishment of drunk driving in the aftermath of a recent incident involving a soldier who was left brain dead after being hit by a drunk driver.

Nearly 270,000 people have signed an online petition on the Cheong Wa Dae website as of Thursday to urge the government to take stern action against the illegality.

The petition was posted by a friend of Yoon Chang-ho, the 22-year-old Korean soldier of the Korean Augmentation Troops to the United States Army (KATUSA), who fell victim to drunk driving last month and is currently in hospital.

According to the petition titled "Drunk driving destroyed my friend's life," Yoon was hit by a drunk driver in Busan on Sept. 25 while on leave during the Chuseok holiday. Yoon flew 15 meters and landed on concrete. He was taken to a hospital but was deemed brain dead.

The driver was totally intoxicated with a blood alcohol content of 0.181 percent, a level that could revoke his driver's license. The police investigated him twice without detention. Only after the public outrage emerged over the case, the police on Tuesday said they are looking to ask the prosecution to seek an arrest warrant.

Saying the nation's punishment for drunk driving is too lenient, the petitioner said, "While my friend is dying, I'm exploding with anger as the law, which should protect victims, is protecting offenders."

The petitioner said the government is taking a lukewarm attitude while the leniency will keep producing victims. "The illegal act, which takes a dear life, should not be punished lightly only because the offender was intoxicated."

Following the petition and public calls, President Moon Jae-in announced the government would strengthen regulations on drunk drivers.

"Drunk driving is not an accident, it could be an act of murder or destroy a person's entire life," Moon said in a meeting with top aides, Wednesday. "We need to end a culture that regards drunk driving as a mistake."

Moon added that drunk drivers have high re-offending rates, stressing the need for harsh punishment even for first-time offenders.

"Just last year alone, 45 percent of people caught for drunk driving committed a second offense, and 20 percent were caught for their third. Between 2005 and 2015, more than 10,000 people had their licenses canceled for drunk driving over three times. This shows drunk driving is rather a habit," Moon said.

The government is seeking to strengthen regulations by slapping stronger punishment on drunk drivers, punishing fellow passengers as well and confiscating cars of habitual drunk drivers, the President said.

"I urge related government bodies to come up with measures especially to prevent repeat offenses by enforcing stronger penalties for first-time offenders," Moon said.

Korean regulations have been lenient toward drunk driving cases compared to other developed nations.

In some states in the U.S., those who have killed people while driving drunk can be convicted of murder. In Norway, those caught for drunk driving twice are banned from obtaining a driver's license again for the rest of their lives.



김현빈 hyunbin@koreatimes.co.kr
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