South Korean sisters call for their father's execution

SEOUL (AFP) - Nearly 150,000 South Koreans have backed a demand by three sisters to have their father executed for the brutal killing of their mother, in a case highlighting the country's lax punishment of domestic violence.

The trio's mother was stabbed to death by her ex-husband in the car park of her apartment complex last week after years of physical abuse.

"Our father is a heinous criminal who must forever be isolated from society," the daughters said in a petition filed on the website of the presidential Blue House.

"We are petitioning for him to be sentenced to death to prevent further victims."

It had received more than 147,000 signatures by Monday (Oct 29) afternoon.

South Korea retains the death penalty in law, but last carried out an execution in 1997 and is regarded as abolitionist in practice.

The murder has shone a spotlight on South Korea's poor handling of domestic abuse cases, where the perpetrators are often assigned to counselling or given restraining orders.

According to a report by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, nearly half of 16,868 cases of domestic violence reported to police in 2015 did not result in any criminal punishment.

Rights groups say that the current law focuses more on maintaining a family structure rather than punishment of the abuser, perpetuating the problem.

"A perpetrator is a subject for punishment, not a subject for counselling," said activist Kim Myung-jin at a rally in downtown Seoul on Monday. "Counselling cannot be punishment."

Last week's assailant - identified only by his surname, Kim - was arrested and reports said he had admitted the killing during police questioning, quoting his lawyer telling reporters that Kim was "regretful" for his actions.

His daughters said their mother had endured more than 20 years of physical abuse and death threats from their father.

"Even after their divorce, our father came to our home with a knife," one of the three told the Chosun Ilbo newspaper. "Whenever that happened, we had to move."

Their mother was always on the run from their father, hiding at women's shelters and in the countryside for months but every time she would be discovered and beaten, her daughters said.

"At one time, my father followed my sister and found out where we were living," they said. "He brought a knife, some tape and ropes and threatened to kill us."

"We always lived in fear," they said. "We moved six times in the last four years."