Perpetrators of DUI accidents get heavy prison sentences in recent court rulings

SEOUL, Nov. 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korean courts have recently been meting out increasingly heavier punishments against drunk driving perpetrators, apparently reflecting rising public criticism over legal leniency for driving under the influence (DUI).

Prosecutors demanded a six-year imprisonment for musical director Hwang Min, who was indicted for a drunk driving accident near Seoul in August that killed two of his fellow actors, during a court hearing in Uijeongbu on Wednesday.

The Cheongju District Court last month sentenced a man in his 50s to three years behind bars for killing a pedestrian while driving after drinking alcohol. The Cheongju man, who was fined 3 million won (US$2,700) a month earlier and had his driver's license revoked for DUI, was driving without a license at the time of the accident.

In Seongnam, south of Seoul, a man in his 40s was recently sentenced to two and a half years in prison for driving about 50 kilometers drunk without a license and causing a rear-end accident.

In South Korea, DUI offenders charged with accidentally killing others have usually been given less than three years in prison, a punishment far weaker than in Western countries.

Amid growing public calls for tougher punishment against DUI, the National Assembly on Thursday passed a new law calling for punishing perpetrators of DUI-related accidental deaths with up to life imprisonment.

A university student in Hongseong, central South Korea, was put under arrest last week on charges of killing three of his school friends in a DUI accident on Nov. 20. Two other students who survived the car accident may face punishment on charges of failing to prevent their friend's drunk driving, according to police.

DUI offenders who are not involved in accidents have also been given prison sentences lately.

The Gongju branch of the Daejeon District Court sentenced a motorist, who was caught driving drunk for the fifth time, to one year in prison.

In Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, a private company employee accused of seven DUIs since 2009 was sentenced to eight months in jail.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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