"The number one reason for divorce given in family court is personality differences, but at marriage counseling centers it's sex problems," said Kim Young-hee, the head of the Family Mediation Committee at Seoul Family Court. "I meet over 1,000 married couples a year, and 70 to 80 percent are sexless marriages. That means at least one person in each couple is having an affair. No other issue in this country is more serious."
Kim has been working with the mediation committee since 1995 and has the highest successful divorce mediation rate, earning her the title "the master of mediation." Last year she opened a counseling center in the belief that it is better to prevent divorces in the first place rather than mediate them. She counsels as many troubled couples as she can, even offering free sessions to those who cannot afford to pay.
She has recently published the book "Why Me?," which tells of her experiences as a counselor over the past year. According to Kim, most sexless couples are in their 30s or 40s, and the crisis usually comes after the wife gives birth. Tired by child birth and rearing, the wife begins to avoid having sex with her husband, prompting him to seek other ways to satisfy his sexual needs.
"Almost all couples that come to me have at least one of the three following issues: lack of sex, extramarital affairs, or suspicions of affairs," Kim said. "In the end, the fundamental cause of most marital conflicts is sex."
Kim stressed that it's not just husbands who are unfaithful. After raising their children, many women experience a reawakening of their sexual desires, but by then their husband's libido has faded due to stress and alcohol and they seem emotionally indifferent. The wife then seeks out younger men.
"When women have affairs it is far more lethal to the marriage. While 90 percent of husbands who have had affairs eventually return to the family, less than 10 percent of unfaithful wives do," Kim said. "I think this is because men have affairs for pleasure, but women to be loved."
"The level of sexual promiscuity in Korean society these days has risen beyond acceptable levels," she added. "The end result of carnal pleasure is destruction. People have to protect their families. Both men and women need to feel more responsible."