A martyrs' shrine in Seoul that served as a former execution site was illuminated recently to highlight the Catholic community's opposition to the continued use of the death penalty in the country. The Justice and Peace Commission of the South Korean Bishops' Conference spearheaded the move. The lighting ceremony at the Jeoldusan Martyrs' Shrine
took place on Nov. 30 and was attended by a smattering of civil and religious groups. The slogan attached to one of the walls of the religious relic was illuminated in yellow, blue and green. It read: "Life Peace, Abolitionist Country Korea, Abolition of Death Penalty." Scores of Korean Catholics were decapitated at the shrine, the name of which literally translates as the "Mountain of Beheading." "Sadly, people's awareness of the death penalty has barely grown despite the church's efforts to abolish this form of punishment," said Sister Jean Marc Cho Sung-ai from the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres. "Many people think inmates on death row deserve to die for their crimes, but most of them come from poor families and are not well educated. Society must accept some of the responsibility for not giving them the chance to grow up with a proper education, so we cannot lay all of the blame for their brutal crimes at their feet." Sister Sung-ai is hailed as a "godmother" by many waiting to be executed by the state for the crimes they have committed.
"Now is the time for the government to abolish capital punishment," she added. Korean bishops chose Nov. 30 as it commemorates the day when Pietro Leopoldo, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, abolished the death penalty in 1786. The bishops' committee has held similar lighting "protests" at various venues in Seoul including Myeongdong Cathedral, City Hall, and Seodaemun Prison History Museum since 2006. So far, the government has not issued any official response.