South Korea's highest court has refused to let a man divorce his wife even after he had been living with another woman and their child for 15 years, reaffirming current legislation that a spouse who is mainly responsible for a broken marriage cannot file for divorce.
The court case heard by the Supreme Court challenged current divorce legislation that bars a spouse deemed responsible for the marital breakdown from initiating divorce proceedings.
In the case heard, the man had an affair, which resulted in a child being born in 1998. He had been living with the mother of the child for the past 15 years, while still married to his wife. The man's lawyers argued that the marriage had permanently and irreconciably broken down and that he had the right to seek a divorce even against his wife's wishes.
The case had been of great interest, especially after the Constitutional Court's decision in February to decriminalise adultery. According to AFP, critics of the move to decriminalise adultery, had claimed that it would encourage infidelity and threaten the family unit.
The 13-judge Supreme Court, ruled seven to six to maintain the current interpretation of the law.
It said that gender equality had some way to go in South Korea and that women would be particularly vulnerable if unfaithful husbands were allowed to divorce them without justifiable complaint.
It also highlighted that a broken marriage could be legally ended if both sides agreed to a settlement, often involving substantial financial payment to the wronged spouse.