Father of woman killed in Seoul unhappy at DUI penalty request

Taipei-The father of a Taiwanese woman who was killed by a drunk driver in Seoul in November last year is unhappy that South Korean prosecutors have only sought a six-year jail term for the driver, saying Monday that it was too lenient.

The 28-year-old woman, Elaine Tseng (???), was a Ph.D. student at Torch Trinity Graduate University in Seoul. On Nov. 6, she was hit and killed by a drunk driver who ran a red light as she was walking home from a professor's residence.

During a court hearing in Seoul on Monday, Korean prosecutors sought a jail sentence of six years for the 52-year-old driver for the death of the woman, which was relatively harsh compared with those normally requested for common types of drunk driving accidents.

The court is expected to hand down its ruling in the case on April 14.

Tseng's father Tseng Kin-fui (???), an anesthesiologist at the Ministry of Health and Welfare's Chiayi Hospital, told CNA he was angry and unhappy over the lenient sentence requested, asking if his daughter's life was really only worth a six-year jail term.

The driver was a third-time driving under the influence (DUI) offender, and was only given fines for the previous two offenses, according to Tseng, citing information from his lawyer.

If harsher penalties for the first or second offenses had been given to the culprit, then his daughter might not have been killed in the accident, Tseng said, which is why he rejected the driver's request for a private settlement.

Tseng said he and his wife have prepared a letter in Chinese and English to be delivered to the trial judge, calling for the South Korean government to introduce harsher penalties for people caught driving under the influence.

Drunk driving penalties in South Korea are relatively lenient compared with those in Taiwan. In Taiwan, DUI offenders can be given a life sentence for causing a death if they have a DUI conviction within the previous five years, according to Tseng.

After Elaine Tseng's death, her parents and a South Korean friend of hers launched a petition on the presidential office website Cheong Wa Dae on Nov. 23 to ensure that the punishment would be severe enough to prevent more tragedies from occurring.

The petition reached the required 200,000 signatures needed for a government response in just five days.

On Dec. 7, Song Min-hun, deputy commissioner-general of the Korean National Police Agency, responded that the driver responsible for the Taiwanese women's death had a blood alcohol level of over 0.08 percent, which meets the threshold for revoking the driver's license.

He said the case has been referred to prosecutors, and the defendant will be sentenced to a jail term of between three years and life under current South Korean laws on drunk driving, which were toughened in 2019.

Although the maximum punishment in South Korea is similar to Taiwan's, Tseng's parents told CNA late last year that after looking at numerous court cases, they concluded that judges in South Korea typically hand down more lenient sentences than their counterparts in Taiwan.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel