This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.
Implications: Although President Moon Jae-in’s economic policies and his approach to North Korea dominate political discourse in South Korea, issues related to social morality have the potential to be politically explosive. The petition against the Supreme Court’s ruling is notable because only about 100 petitions since 2017 have received over 200,000 signatures. In fact, the petition against life-sized sex dolls received more signatures more quickly than calls for President Moon’s impeachment. This suggests that social morality could become a wedge issue in Korean politics that realigns constituencies.
Context: A coalition of different civil society organizations have come together to advocate for the ban on life-sized sex dolls. Activists who oppose all forms of pornography are on the forefront of the protest. These petitioners argue that allowing sex dolls to be freely purchased could risk an increase in sex crimes. This group won a victory earlier this year when the courts responded to the scandals around the illegal distribution of pictures of women by banning access to pornography sites.
Others support the restriction on more technical grounds. They point out that South Korea lacks the strict regulations around these products seen in countries like the United States and Canada. These groups want to ensure that laws are in place that prevent sex dolls being made in the likeness of anybody or resembling children.
Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Yusong Cha and Hyoshin Kim.