Today in Grammar: Adultery "decriminalized" and not "legalized" in South Korea, care of Teddy Locsin Jr.

The journalist calls out misleading headline


( Here’s a little something for the Grammarians out there...who also enjoy Twitter banter. On Thursday, Maria Ressa tweeted about South Korea "legalizing" adultery, and her phrasing caught the attention of fellow journalist Teddy Locsin Jr.:



First, the law in question is from 1953 and South Korea feels like it’s a little outdated. The repealed adultery law slaps a "violator" with a two-year prison sentence for having extra-marital sex. The Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted Ko Seon-Ju, an activist with the Seoul-based civic group Healthy Families, saying, "Adultery is an issue that should be dealt with through dialogue between the partners, not by law."


Amazingly, there’s a kind of government out there in the world that recognizes that there are limits to laws and that they musn’t intrude on people’s lives. With that clear, let’s have Trivia Thursday with Teddy Locsin’s tweet!


Here’s a non-legal, but otherwise official definition for the two terms (from Merriam-Webster):


  • Legalize: to make (something) legal : to allow (something) by law
  • Decriminalization: to remove or reduce the criminal classification or status of; especially : to repeal a strict ban on while keeping under some form of regulation <decriminalize the possession of marijuana>


Pedantic as it may seem, the difference is important. If you say adultery is "legal," it means that it’s okay to commit adultery. Saying that adultery is not a criminal offense only means that you cannot be punished for doing it.


So, no, cheating on your spouse is not a lawfully approved act in South Korea. Sorry, people who want to make their The Mistress, Two Wives, Dalawang Mrs. Real, The Legal Wife, and No Other Woman fantasies come true.


Who says you can’t learn something from Twitter? Thanks, Teddy!

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