Korea Scraps Adultery Law

      February 27, 2015 09:57

      The Constitutional Court on Thursday struck down the singularly punitive adultery law, which was enacted back in 1953. The court in a 7-2 decision ruled that the law breaches individual rights and violates the Constitution.

      Six votes were required to overturn the law, which the court reviewed four times before.

      Critics have long said adultery should be governed not by criminal law but by civic law.

      The decision reflects the changing perception of marriage and sex, with many people now convinced that marital infidelity should not be a criminal matter.

      "The adultery law infringes on individuals' rights to sex, privacy and freedom to a great extent," the majority said in their decision. "Whether to sustain a marriage should depend on people's free will, and the values that the adultery law intended to preserve can be preserved even if the matter is made to be settled in civic law."

      However, the two dissenting judges said adultery "is an act that damages the marriage-based social system and has a destructive impact on families. Therefore it cannot be included in the realm of an individual’s sexual rights."

      In 1990 and 1993, three out of nine Constitutional Court judges voted to scrap the law, but in 2001 only one. In 2008, the law was upheld by a slimmer majority.

      The law mandated a jail sentence of up to two years for marital infidelity, but fewer and fewer people have been sent to prison in recent years.

      Charges were usually dropped immediately the complaint was withdrawn, usually after a financial settlement.

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