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Woman in South Korea toddler murder case begs for forgiveness

The death of a 16-month-old girl in October has sparked outrage and an outpouring of grief in South Korea. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE
The death of a 16-month-old girl in October has sparked outrage and an outpouring of grief in South Korea. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

April 14 (UPI) -- South Korean prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for a woman charged with gross negligence manslaughter in the death of her 16-month-old girl.

The defendant, identified only by her surname Jang, is being tried for the murder of the toddler, Jeong-in, Yonhap and News 1 reported Wednesday.

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The calls for the death penalty came during the trial at Seoul Southern District Court. Prosecutors also asked that the defendant be required to wear an electronic bracelet for 30 years and be placed under probation for five years, reports said.

The child's death ignited widespread anger in South Korea. Politicians on the left and the right have unanimously approved tougher laws against child abusers.

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Earlier this year, South Koreans paid tribute to Jeong-in at public memorials. Activists have demonstrated and called for the defendant's execution.

Jang's husband, identified by his surname, Ahn, was sentenced to seven years, six months in prison. South Korean prosecutors want the man to complete a program on child abuse and be banned from working at childcare-related institutions, according to News 1.

At the trial Wednesday, Jang said she would "kneel and seek the forgiveness" of her deceased daughter.

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"I will accept any punishment," Jang said at court, according to Newsis.

Jang denied during a cross-examination that she stepped on Jeong-in or threw the child on the floor. Earlier this year, South Korea's National Forensic Service said in its autopsy that Jeong-in died of serious internal bleeding of her organs caused by external force.

Lee Jeong-bin, a professor at Gachon University of Medicine and Science, said at the trial Wednesday that Jeong-in likely was stomped on by the defendant. Jeong-in's ruptured pancreas and mesentery are an indication Jang used her feet rather than her arms to assault the girl, Lee said.

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Jang may not have used her arms because she had received breast surgery, Lee said.

Jeong-in was adopted by the couple as a companion for their 4-year-old biological daughter in January 2020, according to local press reports.

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