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State responsible for suicide death in custody: court

The Seoul Central District Court ruled on Thursday that the state should pay compensation to the family of a detainee who committed suicide in his prison cell.

The state was ordered to pay 34 million won ($31,000) in compensation to the bereaved family, saying that the staff at the detention center had been negligent in their oversight of detainees.

The detainee, surnamed Kim, was charged with sexual assault and sentenced to a prison term in May 2013, but was soon transferred into a separate prison cell at Seongdong Detention Center in Seoul, on concerns of his emotional instability and high risk of suicide.

Kim was monitored via surveillance cameras, and supervising staffers at the detention center were also assigned to watch his condition after he had moved in.

Despite the monitoring, Kim was found dead in his cell in September last year. He is believed to have choked himself with a rope he made by ripping his shirt.

According to the court, the detention center staffers previously caught Kim attempting to commit suicide in June last year.

The court said in its ruling that the death of Kim was “due to lack of immediate and preventive measures by the detention center.”

Since 2009, 34 detainees have taken their own lives in detention centers.

By Kim Da-sol, Intern reporter (
Korea Herald daum