South Korea Raises Age of Consent From 13 to 16 to “Protect Teenagers”


May 14, 2020


Image Credit: Reuters

To strengthen the protection of minors, South Korea has revised its age of consent from 13 to 16. Under the new law, adults who have intercourse with individuals younger than 16 will be prosecuted for child sexual abuse, or rape.

According to a statement by the South Korean justice ministry, the age of consent was changed to “protect teenagers from sex crimes at a fundamental level.” The country has also removed all statues of limitations for sexual crimes against minors under 13 years of age. The country’s Government had previously promised that the relevant bill to raise the age of consent will be passed before the end of May.

Critics have often raised outrage against South Korea’s previous age of consent, calling the benchmark too low, as children aged 13 years and younger are considered not mature enough to consent to sexual intercourse in most parts of the world, except in some countries like the Philippines. In South Korea, in a 2017 case that led to widespread outrage, a 42-year-old man was found ‘not guilty’ of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old, on the grounds that the child had consented.

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Though the age of consent varies from 12 to 21 worldwide, some experts argue that anything below and up to 18 as an age of consent disregards how teenagers think. According to what Jennifer Drobac, a consent law expert, writes on Vox, “We now know that the teenage brain does not finish maturing until sometime in the mid-20s. Neuroscience and psychosocial evidence confirms that teens can make cognitively rational choices in ‘cool’ situations — that is, when they have access to information, face little pressure, and possibly have adult guidance. Teens make decisions differently in ‘hot’ situations that involve peer pressure, new experiences, and no time for reflection.”

Drobac adds, “…In situations involving passion and pressure, teens are more likely to choose short-term rewards and discount long-term consequences. But they may lack important factual and contextual information, too. They may not know that if they consent to sex with their boss at an after-school job, they cannot sue under state and federal sex discrimination laws for harassment.”

Drobac proposes that though adolescents should be allowed to give consent, they shouldn’t be held accountable for having offered consent in a court of law. If a 16-year-old individual feels that the intercourse they had with a 30-year-old man was harassment after they turn 18, the court should not use previous consent as evidence. This helps target consent laws towards nabbing adult predators, rather than continuing a culture of victim-shaming children.

“Let’s be clear: No adult needs to have sex with a teenager. In this context, let the adults just say no. Let’s give adults a reason to think twice — or three or four times — before having sex with even a ‘willing’ person of 18 or 19, let alone 16.” Drobac writes.


Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is a culture writer at The Swaddle. Previously, she worked as a freelance journalist focused on gender and cities. Find her on social media @aditimurti.


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