Sentence in drunk driving death case of Taiwanese in Seoul upheld

03/30/2022 11:18 AM
To activate the text-to-speech service, please first agree to the privacy policy below.
Tseng Kin-fui (left) and his wife (photo courtesy of Tseng Kin-fui)
Tseng Kin-fui (left) and his wife (photo courtesy of Tseng Kin-fui)

Taipei, March 30 (CNA) The father of a Taiwanese woman who was killed by a drunk driver in Seoul in 2020 thanked a South Korean court for adhering to justice, after the court on Tuesday upheld an eight-year prison sentence handed down to the Korean driver.

The father, Tseng Kin-fui (曾慶暉), said in a pre-recorded video that although he was dissatisfied with the outcome of the ruling, the driver's eight-year prison sentence is the longest sentence so far for drunk driving-caused deaths in that country. For that, he was grateful, he said.

The parents of the Taiwanese woman choked back tears when talking about their daughter's death.

The father said that losing his daughter is a lifetime of pain. "The drunk driver not only destroyed my daughter's life but also ruined a happy family," he said.

He also said he wanted to thank a lot of people, many of whom he does not know, and the media for their assistance, particularly his daughter's friends who repeatedly wrote letters to judges responsible for the case in pursuit of justice.

Tseng Kin-fui said his daughter's death should not be in vain, adding that he hoped this would remind people in Taiwan not to drink and drive, to cherish life and protect others.

The level of drunk driving fatalities in Taiwan is also very high, Tseng noted.

The Korean Supreme Court in December last year demanded a re-examination of an eight-year prison sentence for the South Korean man, surnamed Kim, who caused the death of Tseng's daughter, Elaine Tseng (曾以琳), while driving under the influence of alcohol in Seoul on Nov. 6, 2020.

The woman, a Ph.D. student at Torch Trinity Graduate University in Seoul, was hit and killed when Kim ran a red light as she was walking home from a professor's residence.

The Supreme Court remanded the case back to the Seoul Central District Court on grounds that the sentence may have been too harsh and violated the country's constitution.

The district court on Tuesday upheld the eight-year prison sentence for the 53-year-old drunk driver. The ruling is final.

The court decided to maintain the sentence for Kim by applying aggravated penalties for special crimes -- dangerous driving causing death in this case -- and road traffic law violations.

The court stated that drunk driving poses a considerable threat not only to the driver himself, but also to the life and property of others.

Therefore, the court exercised its judicial discretion to give priority to societal consensus on the need for heavy punishments for such behavior, according to the court.

Elaine Tseng (left) and her father Tseng Kin-fui (right); photo courtesy of Tseng Kin-fui
Elaine Tseng (left) and her father Tseng Kin-fui (right); photo courtesy of Tseng Kin-fui

In the first trial in April last year, Kim was sentenced to eight years in prison, after taking into consideration the fact that he was previously fined for drunk driving in 2012 and 2017, even though prosecutors only sought a six-year jail term.

An appellate court then upheld the conviction and sentence in August last year based on the 2018 revisions of the Road Traffic Act, called the Yoon Chang-ho Act, named after a drunk driving case victim, which called for aggravated punishments for repeat drunk driving offenders.

However, in November 2021, South Korea's Constitutional Court struck down the revisions as unconstitutional, stating that the vague definition of "repeat offences" did not take into account the time between multiple violations.

That led to the top court's decision on Dec. 30, 2021 to send the case back to the appellate division of the Seoul Central District Court for a retrial.

Tseng's family had thought a lighter penalty could be handed down as a result. However, they are happy that justice has finally been done given the final verdict Tuesday, the family's lawyer said.

Since the fatal accident, Tseng's friends have taken up the legal battle on behalf of her family.

On Nov. 23, 2020, Tseng Kin-fui, his wife and a South Korean friend of their daughter launched a petition that has been posted on the presidential office website Cheong Wa Dae.

The petition called for the maximum sentence for vehicular homicide to be raised, to ensure the punishment is severe enough to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.

The petition received over 200,000 signatures within five days of its initiation, enough for the South Korean government to produce an official response.

(By Liao Yu-yang and Evelyn Kao)


    We value your privacy.
    Focus Taiwan (CNA) uses tracking technologies to provide better reading experiences, but it also respects readers' privacy. Click here to find out more about Focus Taiwan's privacy policy. When you close this window, it means you agree with this policy.