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Tougher punishments passed for drunk drivers

Dec 10,2018
The National Assembly passed a law with tougher punishments for drunk driving on Friday night. The proposal, which was passed with 143 votes from 158 members attending the plenary session, will be enforced starting next June.

The law is called the Yoon Chang-ho act, named for a 22-year-old solider who died after he was struck by a drunk driver. It stipulates that drunk drivers face punishments of up to a life sentence in jail if their drunk driving leads to death.

Drunk drivers are currently only charged after the third time they are found driving under the influence, and only face one to three years in prison or a fine of 5 million ($4,500) to 10 million won. Under the new law, a driver will be charged on the second time they are found driving under the influence and face punishment of two to five years in prison or a fine of between 10 million won to 20 million won.

Currently, a driver’s license can be suspended if the blood alcohol level is 0.05 percent and is revoked if it is 0.10 percent. Those levels will be lowered to 0.03 percent for suspension and 0.08 for revocation.

The bill, which was co-authored by 100 lawmakers in October, was prompted by Yoon’s accident. Yoon died earlier this month, having been in a coma since September when he was struck by a drunk driver in Busan. The accident sparked public outrage at drunk driving and overly lenient punishment for offenders.

However, despite the heightened awareness of drunk driving due to the passing of the new law, DUI accidents occurred nationwide over the weekend.

Two additional DUI car accidents occurred in Seoul and in Suwon on Saturday and Sunday respectively. In each accident, the driver had a blood alcohol content above 0.05 percent. No one was killed, but several people were injured.

BY YONHAP, JEONG JU-WON [jeong.juwon@joongang.co.kr]