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Pianist's 'pilgrimage' against death penalty

Marybona caps tour of death row with concert for 'life'

Pianist Marybona Roh Young-sim
Pianist Marybona Roh Young-sim
  • Stephen Hong, Seoul
  • Korea
  • December 1, 2011
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International efforts are afoot across Asia to urge countries to abolish or suspend capital punishment.

The Vatican last week lent its support to efforts by a Rome-based organization, the Community of Sant’Egidio, to urge leaders worldwide, but particularly in Asia, to initiate a moratorium on capital sentences.

In Korea, courts continue to hand down death sentences, but the government has maintained a moratorium on executions since 1998.

Celebrated pianist Marybona Roh Young-sim thinks the government should do more to end capital punishment in the country permanently.

The musician spent most of November performing for inmates in eight prisons during what she has called a “musical pilgrimage”.

Her journey culminated on November 30 with a performance hosted by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea’s subcommittee for the abolition of capital punishment.

The performance coincided with the international anti-death penalty campaign called “Cities for Life, Cities against the Death Penalty,” initiated by Sant’Egidio in 2002.

Some 100 people turned up at the Catholic Youth Center in Seoul for the event. During his speech to introduce the performance, Father Peter Kim Sung-eun said the concert provided an important but “easy atmosphere in which to discuss the grave topic of the death penalty.”

With roses adorning her grand piano to symbolize inmates facing death sentences, Roh told the audience that the country’s death row inmates, all 60 of whom she has visited during her pilgrimage, are nonetheless “people who have light in their mind,” echoing similar sentiments of the late Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan.

Maria Kim Ye-jin, a university student who attended the concert, said the concert was an effective way to address the issue of capital punishment.

“In fact, it is more important to spread the right recognition of the death penalty than to have a boisterous event.”

In his homily during his celebration of Mass ahead of the concert, Bishop Matthias Ri Iong-hoon of Suwon reminded concert-goers of the “Cities for Life” motto: “No Justice Without Life.”

“Without respect for life, we cannot have justice and peace,” said the prelate, who also heads the Bishops’ Conference’s Committee for Justice and Peace.

He also said the National Assembly should deal “more positively” with pending legislation to abolish capital punishment.

Korea has been classified by anti-capital punishment advocates as “abolitionist in practice,” since no executions have been carried out since December 30, 1997.

But it has no legislative restrictions in place, and pending legislation is set to expire without government action.

The National Assembly has before it three bills addressing capital punishment, all of which will expire in June 2012 if passage is delayed.

Last year Korea’s constitutional court ruled that capital punishment did not violate the country’s national charter.

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CBCK campaigns against death penalty
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