For the more puritanical among us, it must seem like the world is ending. LGBT Americans can join the military, and inevitably, they will be allowed to marry nationwide. You can legally purchase and smoke marijuana in some states, and not just for medical purposes, but because getting high is fun. Where will it all end?
Well, it wont be ending in South Korea. That bastion of Confucian stability has joined the U.S. and other libertine societies on the road to Gomorrah. That nations Constitutional Court, the final arbiter of legality there, has overturned the nations 62-year-old law that made it a crime to commit adultery.
In a 7-2 decision, the Court, sounding more like a bunch of Haight-Ashbury hippies than judges, wrote, It should be left to the free will and love of people to decide whether to maintain marriage, and the matter should not be externally forced through a criminal code. Presiding judge Park Han-Chul explained, “Even if adultery should be condemned as immoral, state power should not intervene in individuals’ private lives. If? If? Oh, the humanity! Where does it all end?
Of course, South Korea has its own Rick Santorum. Justice Ahn Chang-Ho read the dissenting opinion that argued the statute was a key protector of family morals and claimed overturning the law would “spark a surge in debauchery.” Surging Debauchery would be a great name for a heavy-metal band, by the way.
Since 1985, 55,000 South Koreans have been indicted under the law. That works out to be about 1,800 or so a year. Last year, there were 900 indictments, suggesting a relaxation in enforcement (or an improvement in public morals if you still believe in the Easter Bunny). In 1985, there were about 40 million South Koreans. Today, the figure is around 51 million. I dont know how many of those are married people, but its in the millions. I think some folks are getting away with adultery in South Korea.
Choe Sang-Hun, writing in The New York Times explained, The adultery law was adopted in 1953, with the stated purpose of protecting women who had little recourse against cheating husbands in a male-dominated society. But divorce rates and womens economic and legal standing have soared in the decades since, leaving many to argue that the law outlived its usefulness.
Far be it from me to tell the South Koreans how to live. It just seems to me that laws governing public morals in the bedroom are a waste of taxpayer won, dollars, pounds, euros and rubles. Id be very surprised if the law deterred even a single person from committing adultery. Speaking for married men everywhere, I fear prison far less than I fear my wife when she is angry.
Moreover, Id be really surprised if South Koreans saw a surge in debauchery. The law wasnt much of a deterrent, so, getting rid of the prohibition wont have much effect. Unlike the pot tourism of Colorado or Washington state, I dont think the people in Seoul are going to start visiting Pusan for some legal adultery. I think the travel agents usually send you to Thailand for that kind of thing.
Nevertheless, there are always some who hope to profit from a relaxation in public morals. CNN noted, Stock of South Korean latex products manufacturer Unidus Corp. climbed 15%, the daily maximum on Korea’s Exchange, after the court announced its decision on Thursday. Meanwhile, Reuters stated, Hyundai Pharmaceutical Co Ltd, a maker of morning-after birth control pills and pregnancy tests, ended up 9.7 percent after the court decision.
There is some good news for those who want to keep their noses in other folks business. The ruling does not apply to same-sex couples in South Korea. It cant. Its impossible for them to commit adultery because they arent allowed to get married to each other in the first place.
Jeff Myhre is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.