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Ministry to aid S. Koreans facing death penalty for drug trafficking

By Choi Si-young

Published : Nov. 13, 2023 - 17:23

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Two South Korean nationals sentenced to death for drug trafficking by a Vietnamese court will be offered consular services necessary for due process and a fair trial in case of appeal, the Foreign Ministry in Seoul said Monday.

The two Koreans were among 18 defendants found guilty of drug offenses in a trial court ruling last week, according to VnExpress, a Vietnamese online media outlet. Kim, 63, and Kang, 30, were partners who had made ties in a Korean prison for unrelated crimes. A Chinese national involved with them faces the same punishment. The rest were Vietnamese.

“The ministry intends to keep offering consular services to the two,” the ministry said in a statement without elaborating. A senior ministry official said the assistance would include helping them find attorneys and have family visits, adding that anything that has to do with guaranteeing “due process and a fair trial” falls into that category.

According to VnExpress, the ruling by the Family and Juvenile Court under the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court resulted in the largest number of people being issued the death penalty at the same time. Only three out of the 18 defendants face life in prison. All of them had taken part in trafficking over 216 kilograms of drugs.

It remains unclear whether the two Koreans will appeal the decision and if Korean authorities would ask for clemency, as they had done so earlier this year. In August, China executed a Korean national convicted of drug trafficking, despite appeals from Seoul.

It was Beijing’s first execution of a Korean national for a drug crime since late 2014, when four Koreans were put to death. A Korean national was also executed for murder in 2004, while another faced the same punishment in 2001 for drug dealing.

Around 70 Koreans are facing drug charges in China, but none are likely to face the death penalty “in the near future,” according to an official in Seoul with knowledge of the matter, who declined to be identified.