Adultery Is Now Legal in South Korea

62-year-old law is abolished
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 26, 2015 9:32 AM CST
Adultery Is Now Legal in South Korea
South Korean actress Ok So-ri was handed an eight-month suspended sentence for adultery in 2008.   (AP Photo/ Yonhap, Kim Do-yun)

A prominent South Korean maker of latex condoms ended the day with its stock up 15%, and a manufacturer of the morning-after pill saw a nearly 10% jump. The atypical reason why: The country's highest court today ruled that adultery is not a crime. It's been one since 1953, with the offense punishable by jail. Though the law was upheld in 2008 (and, since 1990, three times prior), seven of the nine judges found it unconstitutional this time around. An opinion from five members of the panel reads, "the law ... infringes people's right to make their own decisions on sex and secrecy and freedom of their private life, violating the principle banning excessive enforcement." Under the decades-old law, straying spouses could be sentenced to as many as two years in jail, reports the BBC.

But Reuters points out that the situation rarely ends in jail. By its numbers, thousands of spouses tended to file such complaints annually, and of the 892 indictments handed down in 2014, none ended in jail terms. Indeed, one law professor says the penalties had become so "light" that the law no longer had the "preventative effect" that was intended. Some 5,400 people have been convicted of the crime since 2008, and per court law, their cases can now be reconsidered, with those found guilty eligible for retrials, reports the AP. Yonhap notes that Taiwan and North Korea are the only other Asian countries that have such a law on the books. It reports that in 62 years, some 100,000 South Koreans have been convicted of the crime. (More South Korea stories.)

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