Example Crime: Rape (victim is an adult)
STEP 1: Identify the governing/applicable (criminal) law.
Article 297 of the Criminal Act (형법) says, “A person who, by means of violence or intimidation, has sexual intercourse with another shall be punished by imprisonment for a limited term of at least 3 years.”
STEP 2: See what the most severe punishment (for the crime) can be.
In this case, there is only one form of punishment -> “imprisonment for a limited term of at least 3 years.” So the worst-case scenario is you get sent to prison for a very, very long time (i.e., at least 3 years). But not “for the rest of your life” because of the words “a limited term of.”
FYI 1: Imprisonment (w/ or w/o prison labor) is always a more severe form of punishment than a (criminal) fine. This is true even when the defendant receives probation (and does not actually end up in jail).
FYI 2: When an English version of a Korean law just says “imprisonment,” it means imprisonment with prison labor (aka 징역).
FYI 3: Korean courts cannot give out sentences like “imprisonment for 1,000 years.” Max limited term (possible) is 50 years.
STEP 3: Use Article 249(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act. (See slide.)
In this case, the statute of limitations is 10 years (#3).
Why? Because the max punishment (for raping an adult) can (indeed) be 10 years or more (50 to be exact), but not life. Without the words “a limited term of,” the statute of limitations would be 15, not 10. The statute of limitations starts to run upon the completion of a crime.
Conclusion: The statute of limitations for raping an adult is 10 years.
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