Korean Supreme Court Rules Adultery Law is Unconstitutional

D-bo, Feb. 26, 2015, 7:54 a.m.

The Constitutional Court ruled Thursday cheating should no longer be banned under the nation's founding principles, reflecting a growing importance of personal choice over marital order in a traditionally group-oriented society.

Under the landmark ruling, those indicted or convicted of adultery after Oct. 30, 2008, a day after the last constitutional ruling, may ask for a suspension of indictment or a retrial.  South Korea had been one of the few remaining countries in Asia that prohibits infidelity, next to North Korea and Taiwan. Extramarital affairs here had been banned under the criminal law since 1953.

Sentences have been relatively heavy, with jail time ranging up to two years, not fines, being the only fate a cheater could face. In Taiwan, the sentences range up to just one year in prison.  Previously, the court had turned down petitions to repeal the law a total of four times from 1990 to 2008. In 2008, however, the judges supporting personal freedom became a majority, but were one vote shy of realizing a change.

Nearly 53,000 South Koreans have been indicted for adultery since 1985, with two thirds of them being arrested. From November 2008 to January this year, only 0.4 percent of the 5,466 indicted were arrested.

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