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2009/11/26 15:34 KST
Promising marriage for sex no longer illegal: Constitutional Court

By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, Nov. 26 (Yonhap) -- The Constitutional Court ruled Thursday that a longstanding criminal law penalizing men who have sex with women under false promise of marriage is unconstitutional.

   The ruling was approved by 6 to 3, overturning a 2002 ruling in which seven members upheld the constitutionality of the clause.

The current criminal law stipulates punishment for men accused of coercing women to have sex after promising marriage with prison sentences of less than two years or a fine of less than 5 million won (US$4,300).

   The decision follows a petition by a South Korean man, identified only as Lim, who was indicted for having sex with one of his female workers on four occasions under the fraudulent promise of marriage.

   During an open hearing in September, Lim claimed the "outdated" criminal law violates his female partner's sexual rights as well as his own right to pursue happiness.

   The criminal law clause on sex based on fraudulent promise of marriage, first enacted in 1953, has been said to be inconsistent with the rapidly changing social and global trends. In fact, only 25 persons were indicted on the charge last year, with eight of them drawing a prison term.

   Regarding the controversial case, government ministries were divided over the legitimacy of the law.

   Officials at the Justice Ministry were in favor of the clause to protect females' rights in Korea's traditionally male-dominated Confucian society. On the contrary, the Ministry of Gender Equality submitted a written opinion with the top court, saying the law was discriminatory against men and infringes on women's sexual rights.