Should Government Legislate Morality? Is Adultery a Crime?

Ok So-ri Jailed for Adultery
Ok So-ri Jailed for Adultery
  • What is the Government’s Role in upholding Morality?
  • It is a Criminal Offense to Murder, to Steal, how about Adultery?
  • Is it impeding on personal freedoms or should the Government have the right to govern it’s people’s moral conduct to maintain social order?

In 2008, South Korea’s highest court upheld an adultery law that sends adulterers to jail for having an extra-martial affair. Since 1989, four appeals have made it to the highest court but all four have been shot down. The most recent appeal was overturned this past October regarding a popular korean actress, Ok So-ri also known as Ok Bo-kyung, who was charged for an affair with a well-known opera singer. She blamed it on a loveless marriage. In January, she had entered into divorce proceedings with her husband Park Chul. Ok So-ri was sentence to eight months for adultery. Her lover was also sentenced to six months.

South Korea is one of the few remaining non-Muslim countries were adultery remains a criminal offense. A person found guilty could get jail time up to two years. The law was originally enacted in 1953 to protect women. Women had little options against a husband who had an affair. If a wife was to leave a husband she would end up penniless. The argument on Ok So-ri’s petition was that this law has “degenerated into a means of revenge by the spouse, rather than a means of saving a marriage.” Critics often argue that it is often the case that it is the woman who ends up suffering due to this law.

Though thousands have filed complaints, it is rare for people to be jailed. It is the “legal perception that adultery is damaging to the social order and infringes on another’s rights” the court noted in overturning the appeal. This law was upheld in 1990, 1993, 2001 and in 2008.

“The decision seems to represent a still prevalent idea that the adultery law serves as a buffer against family breakdown, a point that hasn’t even been proven,” said Lee Hye-kyung of the Minwoo women’s rights group. The court was divided in its opinions but did not have enough dissenting judges to strike it down.

According to a survey in 2007, 68% of South Korean men and 12% of korean women confessed to having sex outside of marriage.

At first, you might immediately think that this is wrong. It impedes on our freedom. It impedes on our privacy. With the idea of sexual freedom and sexual promiscuity spreading into mainstream media and seeped into our culture, most people will immediately cry foul at the thought whether it is within the context of marriage or not.

How about if it is placed from this angle? It is a crime to murder someone. Why? It impedes from their right to live. it is a crime to steal from someone. Why? it impedes from their right to ownership and it adversely affects the other party. Heck breaking a “business contract” can have huge consequences! So then does it not make sense that adultery should be a crime because it impedes someone from having a stable family, happiness, not to mention the breaking of an oath? Adultery most often will result in very severe emotional and financial damage especially if it leads to divorce. How about the life long damage it causes on the young children involved is unarguable. So then is it wrong to have adultery be a crime due to the damage it causes others?

if this was a matter of having pre-martial sex, that is one thing, but right now the focus is on a married individual having an extra martial affair and essentially breaking up the family.

What are your thoughts?

  • Should the government legislate morality? Does it already?
  • How about abortions & stem cell research? Are these moral issues?
  • Should adultery be considered a crime?

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    1. Hey John,

      I am not sure what you mean by the question, but I’ll try to answer it the best I can without delving too much into my personal life. I’ll drop you an email if you’d like more details.

      I don’t necessarily have a professional “mentor”. However what I can say is that my values and beliefs are based on the particular truths of what I have been shown (and have investigated) to be true. I am speaking mainly of my religious beliefs. I believe what I believe because it is true to reality not simply because I was told it was true.

      Sorry to be a bit vague, but again I’ll drop you an email.

      – Media Influence

      I also rely upon my relationships with others who are anchored in their values to keep me anchored

      – Media Influence

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