What Do Koreans Consider Adultery?

  • By Byun Hee-won

    May 22, 2020 08:50

    Adultery only recently became legal in Korea, after decades when the law against it was haphazardly applied to make the occasional example of people. But many still grapple with the ramifications of that decision.

    Former U.S. President Bill Clinton famously denied he committed adultery with White House intern Monica Lewinsky because no full penetrative sex had taken place -- she had "only" fellated him.

    At the other end of the scale, some people even feel cheated on if their partner watches pornography, and somewhere on the spectrum are people who are willing to overlook platonically amorous relationships their partners may have.

    Concubinage and quick visits to the massage parlor are common among men in Asia without greatly disturbing long-established marriages. So what standard should baffled young people apply?

    A recent straw poll of 702 adults showed stark differences in perception between men and women. Some 40.1 percent of male respondents said adultery would be a "continued sexual relations," as against 17.1 percent of women.

    On the other hand, 58 percent of female respondents said even dating without sex or amorous feelings are enough to be considered adultery, compared to only 35.5 percent of men.

    Some 15.3 percent of men considered one-night stands or sex with prostitutes adultery, and 7.7 percent a crush as adultery too, compared with a resigned 9.4 percent and 11.1 percent of women.

    Overall men appear to place more importance on physical relationships and women more on emotional ties.

    Kang Jeong-wha, a married woman in her 30s said, "You can say your spouse cheated on you the minute he or she signed up for a mountain-climbing club. You can go mountain climbing alone, but joining a club to do that shows you're more interested in meeting members of the opposite sex."

    And Nam Myeong-soo, a married man in his late 30s, said, "Let's say my wife carpools to work downtown with a male colleague. Staying in an enclosed space like a car together for five days a week alone with another man is adultery."

    Psychotherapist Esther Perel says in her book, "The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity," that adultery is essentially a violation of a contract between two people. For instance, if a husband and wife tacitly agreed before marriage that meeting people of the opposite sex on their own is a no-no, then doing so breaks that contract.

    In other words, adultery is determined not by social rules, but by the understanding two people reach and whether something they do disrespects their partner.

    • Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com
    Previous Next
    All Headlines Back to Top