In some parts of the world, adultery is considered a crime. For places like South Korea, if you cheated on your husband or wife, you could end up in jail.
Well, not anymore!
On Thursday (26th Feb), the country’s Constitutional Court announced that they’re abolishing the 62-year-old law that made adultery a crime, saying that it violates the East Asian nation’s constitution.
Upon overturning the ban on adultery, the court ruled:
The precondition of human dignity and right to pursue happiness is for each individual to have their rights to choose their fate. And the rights to choose their fate includes rights to be engaged in sex and choosing the partner. The law is unconstitutional, as it 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 constitution.
7 of the court’s 9 judges voted to overturn the law, which carried a maximum penalty of 2 years in jail. The same penalty also applied to “the one who fornicated with the” cheating spouse. These judges wrote that women are active socially and economically, as such, women no longer apply as economically weaker and the law cannot be viewed as (exclusively) protecting women.
Note: The chief reason for originally enacting the adultery law was to protect women. 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.
The dissenting view, however, argued that legalising adultery hurts efforts to promote family in South Korea. It points to statistics showing 40% of South Korean marriages since 2000 end in divorce. And between 2000 and 2006, at least, 47.1% of those divorces came about after one or more spouses cheated.
But that’s changing because the South Korean society has changed enough “to lose many parts of (the anti-adultery law’s) reason to exist,” the prevailing judges said, according to a news release summarising their decision.
The last time the South Korean court looked at this law was 2008. Since then, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap, some 5,500 people have been indicted on adultery charges, though that doesn’t mean they ended up behind bars. It was not immediately clear what will happen to those cases, assuming they haven’t been resolved already.
Meanwhile, in a strange twist of events, the abolition of the 62-year-old law saw the share price of Unidus, South Korea’s biggest condom maker, surge 15% – which is, by the way, the daily limit on the country’s Kosdaq market. As if in celebration of the court’s decision!
Our opinion? Sure, overturning the adultery law and making it legal might seem outrageous but we’re guessing that you don’t need the law to tell you that it’s wrong to cheat on someone.