South Korea Finally Repeals Adultery Ban

South Korea Finally Repeals Adultery Ban

Claire Payne, Reporter

On Thursday, February 26th, a South Korean court abolished a law making adultery an offense punishable by up to two years in prison, saying the state should not intervene in the citizens’ private lives. This ban on extramarital affairs was passed in 1953. Since 1985, 53,000 South Koreans have been indicted under the law. The presiding judge said public conceptions of individuals’ sexual rights have changed.

This ban was first passed with the stated purpose of “protecting women who had little recourse against cheating husbands in a male-dominated society.” However, since 1953, divorce rates and women’s rights have been completely modernized. In 2013, 36 percent of South Korean marriages ended in divorce. As a result, the law has been challenged several times since 1990, all cases unsuccessful.

One of those attempts would include a popular Korean actress, Ok So-ri, when her husband pressed a criminal complaint against her. The litigation was one vote away of striking the law down. Consequently, she was sentenced to eight months in prison.

A few of the justices actually doubted the usefulness of the law in preventing infidelity. Instead, it has been used to extortionate spouses into a divorce.

Although the idea banning extramarital affairs seems very archaic, the vice-president of one of Korea’s biggest Confucianist societies said he believes adultery gravely demoralizes society, even calling the court’s decision “disastrous.”