NATIONAL

[Newsmaker] Death of young soldier calls for tougher punishments for drunk driving

By Jo He-rim
  • Published : Nov 11, 2018 - 14:45
  • Updated : Nov 11, 2018 - 14:55

The Korean Service Corps Battalion held a send-off ceremony Sunday for a 22-year-old soldier who fell victim to a drunk driver last month. After the incident, the government is moving to toughen punishment against drunk driving.

Yoon Chang-ho, a 22-year-old soldier of the Korean Augmentation Troops to the United States Army, was with a friend when they were hit by a drunk driver in Busan on Sept. 25, during the Chuseok holiday leave period.

(Yonhap)

The driver, surnamed Park, was intoxicated with a blood alcohol level of 0.181 percent at the time of the incident -- a number mandating the revocation of the driver’s license, and far exceeding the 0.05 percent legal limit.

Yoon died on Friday, 46 days after he was left hospitalized and brain-dead.

On Sunday, some 200 people gathered for the funeral ceremony held in the Armed Forces Busan Hospital.

“It is sad that I have to send him off like this. His death sounds an alarm bell in our society. Politicians must pass a ‘Yoon Chang-ho Act’ to make sure such an unfortunate event does not occur again,” Yoon Ki-hyun, the victim’s father said.

“It is difficult and painful to see you go. But we will move to make sure your name is referred for honorable deeds,” Kim Min-jin, the victim’s friend said.

Yoon was enshrined in Daejeon Memorial Park.

Kim and other friends have raised the issue of drunk driving, petitioning on the presidential office website for stronger punishment for the misconduct of Oct. 2 and gathering more than 400,000 signatures within a month. They held a press conference and visited lawmakers to demand a law revision against driving under the influence of alcohol.

The government is expected to reinforce punishment against drunk driving. Rep. Ha Tae-keung and 103 lawmakers across the aisle submitted a revision to the Road Traffic Act calling for stronger penalties against first-timers and putting in place stricter standards for measuring blood alcohol concentration. The revision also includes applying murder charges to drunk drivers at fault in fatal accidents.

“Drunk driving incidents were often perceived as accidents, caused without an intention to harm. But Yoon’s friends let us know that it should not be perceived that way,” Rep. Ha said Sunday.

Police called in the driver, surnamed Park, 26, for an investigation and requested an arrest warrant on charges of causing death due to dangerous driving.

According to police, Park admitted to the charges and apologized. “I am very sorry. I admit my fault, and will make amends myself for what I did,” said Park, who has also been hospitalized from the injury caused from the incident.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)