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China Executes South Korean for Drug Trafficking

Chinese cities Urumqi, Guangzhou and Kunming
Chinese cities Urumqi, Guangzhou and Kunming

China has executed a South Korean national for drug trafficking, Beijing's foreign ministry said, the first time such a sentence has been carried out on a citizen of that country in almost a decade.

A court in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou "lawfully pronounced a verdict and executed the South Korean defendant... for drug trafficking" Friday, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"When defendants of different nationalities commit crimes on Chinese territory, Chinese law shall be applied equally," it added.

An official from Seoul's foreign ministry told reporters Friday that "the death penalty was carried out today for a South Korean citizen who was sentenced to death for selling drugs in China."

Beijing said the individual, who Chinese officials named as Jiang -- which would be rendered Kang in Korean -- had had their "legitimate rights and interests" protected.

South Korea expressed "regret that the death penalty has been carried out against our citizen."

"The government has made multiple requests for reconsideration or postponement of the execution on humanitarian grounds through various channels since the death sentence was announced," the official said.

It is the first execution of a South Korean drug offender by China in nine years, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.

The individual was arrested in China in 2014 in possession of 5 kilograms of methamphetamine, according to Yonhap.

He was sentenced to death in 2019, the agency said.

China, the world's top executioner, frequently carries out the death penalty by lethal injection for very serious crimes.

The Chinese legal system is tightly controlled by the ruling Communist Party and courts have a near-100% conviction rate in criminal cases.

Like many countries in the region, China has strict drug laws, and several foreign nationals have been handed death penalties for trafficking in recent years.

In 2020, an Australian was sentenced to death in China for drug trafficking.

According to Chinese media, he was arrested at Guangzhou airport in December 2013 with more than 7.5 kilograms of methamphetamine in his luggage.

And in 2019, China sentenced two Canadian nationals accused of drug trafficking to death at a time when relations with Ottawa were nosediving.

Seoul said Friday's execution was "unrelated to the relationship between China and South Korea.”