My Facebook newsfeed is loaded with tons of posts and status updates about the decriminalization of adultery in Korea. While drinking some homemade lassi, Andy and I had a discussion and I just want to express my thoughts about it.
Article 241 of Korean Constitution states that (1) A married person who commits adultery shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than two years. The same shall apply to the other participant. (2) The crime in the preceding paragraph shall be prosecuted only upon the complaint of the victimized spouse. If the victimized spouse condones or pardons the adultery, complaint can no longer be made.
For a law to be declared unconstitutional, it requires a minimum of six votes. In today’s case, seven out of the nine Justices found the law criminalizing adultery “unconstitutional”. As a result of this ruling, Article 241 is repealed and adultery is no longer a crime in South Korea. The court stated that Article 241 is an infringement of an individual’s “right to sexual self-determination” and “right to privacy”.
So, what are the implications of today’s ruling? Since adultery is no longer a criminal act (only a civil matter), future adulterers will no longer be prosecuted by the authorities. However adultery will still continue to be a ground for divorce and custody battle. One can still sue his or her unfaithful spouse for tort damages (psychological and emotional suffering etc.). Adulterers can be fined or sued but not arrested.
It’s just wrong to say that Korea is now allowing adultery. A lot of Filipino netizens posted on Facebook that the court is now ‘encouraging’ the act. It’s not. And the ruling does not mean that way. Decriminalization does not equal legalization. It is still wrong and immoral to commit adultery, and it can never be right. However, the court believes that the government should not interfere in people’s private lives and their personal choices. And besides, although the government is concerned about social order, one’s relationship with one’s spouse (good or bad) is his or her own business and not the government’s. A lot of people seem to be worried and angry because of the abolition of the adultery law. Well, I think they should put more efforts in building a good and strong relationship with their spouse. In the first place, couples should be together because of love and commitment, not because of any law. Anyway, now Article 241 is history.