A Fling Without Fear: South Korea Legalizes Adultery; Birth-Control Stocks Surge February 27, 2015

A Fling Without Fear: South Korea Legalizes Adultery; Birth-Control Stocks Surge

For the last 62 years, adultery was against the law in South Korea, drawing prison sentences of up to two years for both lovers. That ended yesterday.

South Korea’s Constitutional Court on Thursday overturned a law that made adultery a crime, saying it violates the East Asian nation’s constitution. “The precondition of human dignity and right to pursue happiness is for each individual to have their rights to choose their fate,” the court ruled, saying that one’s sex life is private. “And the rights to choose their fate includes rights to be engaged in sex and choosing the partner.”

The chief reason for originally enacting the adultery law was to protect women, these justices contended. The idea was that men — who tended to be economically and socially more powerful — took advantage of women. And if a man was charged criminally, that would give women more leverage in divorce proceedings. (In other words, a wronged wife might get more compensation after deciding to drop the charges.)

Seven of the nine Korean justices ruled that, given women’s social and economic advances, the law was outdated.

According to the Wall Street Journal,

Nearly 53,000 South Koreans have been indicted and more than 35,000 jailed for marital infidelity since 1985, the start of electronic record keeping, according to the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office. …

Until Thursday’s ruling, which is effective immediately, South Korea was one of a few non-Muslim countries that regularly practiced criminal prosecution of adultery.

The arguments played out more or less as they would in the U.S., with the minority conservatives on the court referring to the family as civilization’s cornerstone, writing

“Considering that the relationship between husband and wife is the fundamental element of a family, the country and the society should legally protect and maintain (this) relationship.”

But why hand the state coercive, enforcement-centric control over what consenting adults do in private? Adultery can certainly be poisonous to a relationship that the partners agreed would be monogamous, and sexual infidelities do often wreck marriages. That’s a problem, but not one that can be properly addressed with arrests and jail time.

By the way, Christianity is easily the biggest religion in South Korea, followed by Buddhism. Both have grown by enormous leaps in the last 50 years, and together they are now bigger than the “none or other” category that used to comprise 92 percent of the population back in the 1962 and is now down to a minority.

You might expect the explosive ascendance of religious faith in South Korea to lead to stricter morality-based laws, but evidently, it’s hard to obey the Bible if there’s extramarital nookie to be had. To wit,

Shares of South Korean condom maker Unidus Corp. surged after the ruling, hitting the 15% daily gain limit on the local index.

Also, writes NPR,

[S]hares of Hyundai Pharmaceutical, which makes morning-after birth control pills and pregnancy tests, rose 9.7 percent.

(Image via Shutterstock)


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