S. Korea top court rejects death penalty in brutal murder

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea's top court on Wednesday rejected arguments for reinstating the death sentence imposed on a Chinese national convicted of a gruesome murder that shocked the country.

Wu Yuanchun, an ethnic Korean, was originally sentenced to death for the rape, murder and dismemberment of a 28-year-old woman in the southern city of Suwon in April, 2012.

Wu, a migrant worker, spent six hours cutting the body into 365 pieces and individually wrapping each one in plastic.

In June, a district court sentenced Wu to death, having accepted the prosecution's argument that the murder was premeditated and that Wu had intended to sell the body parts.

But the sentence was reduced to life imprisonment in October by an appeals court that rejected the argument Wu had planned to kill her in order to sell the body parts, prompting prosecutors to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Although the death penalty is still imposed in South Korea, nobody has been executed since 1997.

Wu's case triggered a backlash against police when it was revealed that the victim had called a police emergency number from her home as the attack was taking place.

The phone line remained open for eight minutes, and the victim could be heard screaming in pain and begging for her life.

Police admitted mistakes and the national police chief resigned as a result.

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