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Monday, June 07, 2004

(Family and kin) Consolation money for an abandoned live-together partner

Every now and then the topic of living together before marriage comes up as a social issue in Korea, mostly as a consequence of a TV drama. I've yet to hear that it'd become a socially accepted thing, something that's done openly with the consent of the persons' parents.
Here's a small piece in Chosun Ilbo about a case, in which a man who had gotten a woman to live with him on the pretense of marriage had been sentenced to pay consolation money after he abandoned the woman to marry another.

Chôngjokwôn ch'imhae was the reason for which the consolation money was ordered; this Korean legalese is some difficult stuff, but this means approximately "infringement of the right for chastity." (Chôngjodae is "chastity belt", in case someone needs to know.)

Mr Choi had written a pledge (kaksô) for Ms Lee, in which he promised to marry her and take care of her as a husband. They lived together for 1.5 years, but ended up separated as Choi started being absent, and finally left their home alltogether and married another woman.

Lee failed a complaint against Choi on honin pingja kanûm, "having sexual relations on the pretense of marriage", but due to lack of evidence he was acquitted. She filed a compensation claim, which was decided on her favor on the basis of chôngjokwôn ch'imhae, and he was ordered to pay 30 million W [20 000€]

참 재미있는 나라. 한쪽에는 성(性)적인 개판이고 다른쪽엔 미풍양속을 지키는 척한다네.

This might be a good occasion to give the link to a page of Chosôn (Joseon) era erotic paintings I recently made, not because I was bored or because I didn't have more pressing things, but because... let's say I wanted to know how well a digital camera can substitute for a scanner. And the result is not that bad. The pictures I tried my method on only happened to belong to the genre of so-called "Spring pictures" (ch'unhwa or chunhwa 春畵, jap. shunga). The two painters, Kim Hong-do and Yun Sin-bok are well known for their Chosôn era genre paintings (p'ungsokhwa 風俗畵), which depict the daily life of both the yangban and commoners at the late 18th century.

Pictures of spring / 한국의 춘화(春畵)



In regard with the picture of a monk and a young woman above and a couple of others behid the "Pictures of spring" link, came to think of Buddhist monks in Korean sexual tradition. No doubt them being unmarried has them in a special position as far as sexual mores are concerned. Now that I think, stories of monks as sexual partners appear in all kinds of places, from Chosôn era official accounts to contemporary news of monks taking sexually advantage of believers and disciples.
- "The case of a wanton widow"; Mark Peterson in his Korean Adoption and Inheritance (Cornell East Asian Series, 1996) provides a case of a widow who kept a Buddhist monk as a lover, apparently before and after she remarried. (The picture on the right is "Waiting" (Kidarim) by Sin Yun-bok; a woman is holding a monk's hat while waiting for someone.)
- The lecherous monk as one of the figures in the Hahoe mask dance
- The endless cases of contemporary lecherous monks, demanding sex from temple customers, in the worst cases extorting money
- Contemporary stories of monks as favorite lovers;
- "The monk there in the temple, they say he's well endowed" (a pangakan keeper of a nearby temple which was his steady customer)

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Comments to note "(Family and kin) Consolation money for an abandoned live-together partner" (Comments to posts older than 14 days are moderated)

<Anonymous Anonymous> said on 8.6.04 : 


I'd be careful in extrapolating much from this case about there being a generally-recognized legal cause of action for "palimony" in Korea. Given the factual situation, it appears that the plaintiff was only able to collect because the defendant was foolish enough (or the plantiff was shrewd enough to get him) to "put it in writing". I suspect that absent the writing she would have gotten nothing -- probably wouldn;t have been liablefor the defendant's legal expenses and possibly a countersuit for libel and/or defamation of character.

The odd thing is that if he made the written promise to marry her, it's a little difficult to understand why he wasn't found civilly liable (and criminally guilty) of obtaining sex under pretense of promise to marry. Usually the problem in such cases is proof of the promise, not the sex -- not that's IT'S proven; I think the courts tend to take "judicial notice" of that as a given fact.

Maybe what's really going on in this case, though, is that the court was trying to do a sort of rough justice by awarding damages for breach of contract (promise) while avoiding having to find the defendent guilty of a crime as well. That would make sense given the surprisingly large number of these cases in Korea, where jilted lovers (generally women) try to use the threat of criminal prosecution to get their lover to stay (why anyone would want someone who stays only under such a sword is another interesting question. Still, it's an outcome that's sui generis, insofar as I imagine there are very few situations in which such promises are reduced to writing.


P.S. I have a legal education and practiced law for twenty years, including several years as a legal consultant in Korea to Korean law firms. I'm also personally )professionally) familiar with several such cases involving claims by Korean women against foreign men.

<Blogger Antti Leppänen> said on 8.6.04 : 

Sperwer, thanks for the very valuable comment. Notes like yours make writing this blog worthwhile.
The judge ruled the following to be a violation of law (위법행위) as "infringement of the right for chastity": "during the cohabitation, the man did not reveal that he was losing his willingness and ability to marry the woman, but used the woman's good faith and continued to have sexual relations, after which he broke his promise and married another woman"
I find cases like this very interesting in tracking the Korean attitudes towards marriage.

<Anonymous Anonymous> said on 8.6.04 : 


It might be worthwhile to try to get a copy of the actual court opinion. Court opinions, when they exist, aren't usually very lucid in Korea, but they're usually better than newspaper reports, at least if you're used to deciphering them.

What intrigues me about this case is the newspaper report's purported distinction between two sorts of legal claims: one for fraudulently obtaining sex under pretense of marriage and another for violation of a right of chastity. The first IS a basis for both civil liability and criminal penalties in Korea. I've never heard of the second before (although my not being familiar with it isn't dispositive) except when what is meant is rape. Pending finding out whether there really is any such cause of action (short of rape) as the latter, I think it's a useful working hypothesis that the judge framed his decision in terms of this moral imperative of protecting (female) chastity [we all know that in the case of Korean men, the only thing the law seems intent on protecting is their sexual promiscuousness], but,legally-speaking, the actual basis for the finding in favor of the plaintiff was the more prosaic fact that the defendant broke his contract/promise to marry. Koreans, even judges, in my experience, generally don't care too much about the simple notion of contract, i.e., a bare exchange of promises between two parties, outside the context of some other morally fraught relationship, so they commonly try to justify enforcing contract claims on some other "moral" ground.

The only relevance of the matter of the woman's chastity would be in respect of assessing the amount of the monetary damages not the defendant's liability. I'm curious if the newspaper reports on the amount of damages that she was awarded. In my experience (professional), the "going rate" for the putative virginity (and I think in most cases in Korea what is being spoken of here is a fiction -- one young Korean women frankly admitted to me that she underwent an operation to have her virginity "restored" when it came time to get engaged) of jilted bethrothed is about 30-50 million KRW. If we're talking about "damaged goods" ther's a steep discount.


<Blogger Andi> said on 9.6.04 : 


On the "observed" level of Korean culture...a Canadian friend of mine is engaged to her Korean boyfriend. His family is fairly conservative; were he not the second son of a second son, his uncle (the eldest son of the previous generation and the de facto head of the family) would not have given permission for Gi-hwan to marry Tamara. But, fortunately for both Gi-hwan and Tamara, he did give permission and they will marry in August.

Tamara moved up to Seoul, where Gi-hwan works, to take language lessons. The problem was, where would she live until they married and could move in together? It was a bit of an inconvenience; and although she wanted to move in with Gi-hwan prior to the marriage, both of them thought it wasn't possible.

But his parents pre-emptively decided it just made more sense, practically, for the two of them to move in together six months before the date of the wedding. Surprised, and pleased, the couple has been living together the past three months. I'm not sure this constitutes evidence of co-habitation being "socially accepted," but it was a striking example of flexibility.

Another friend of mine, this time Korean, lived with the mother of his five-yearold daughter for about five-and-a-half years before he finally married her this spring. All that time, though with the knowledge and consent of both sets of parents, they lived on the outskirts of town, in a small house. I asked when he would move into an apartment in one of the main complexes in town, and he said not until "later." After he married, however...he finally moved into an apartment in town. This may have something to do with the acceptability of his relationship and co-habitation his now-wife, and keeping a low profile until he had a proper relationship to her.

I hope this is of interest, as things simply observed in everyday life.


<Blogger Gord> said on 25.6.04 : 

I also have a Korean friend who was recommended by her in-laws to move in with her boyfriend for something like six months before the wedding. They said it made good economic sense. I know of other Koreans who seem not to think so badly of it, both younger and older, as well.

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