South Korea’s sex doll restrictions are easing

South Korea has an interesting history of trying to regulate the *ahem* adult market.

South Korea’s sex doll restrictions are easing
File photo by Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic

Most people would say that what adults do with their money is their own business. But South Korea has an interesting history of trying to regulate the ahem adult market. We're talking about sex dolls, more specifically.

Back in 2019, a petition circulated around South Korea calling for a national ban on importing life-size sex dolls. And it got over a quarter of a million signatures. With that many signatures, the president's office legally had to respond to this demand.

The petition was created after Seoul's High Court decided that the government shouldn't treat sex dolls the same way as pornography – which is highly regulated but legal – and that these kinds of toys are for personal use. So, the author of the petition argued that more imported sex dolls would lead to more sex crimes.

The thing is that even though sex dolls aren't illegal, government customs agencies have been blocking their import because of a law that limits things that "harm the country's beautiful traditions and public moral." So, since 2018, thousands of these dolls have been seized by customs.

Because of all of the confusion and restrictions, importers brought their complaints to court. Their main argument was that because sex dolls are used in private, personal spaces, there's no harm being done to human dignity.

Now, customs officials have decided to lift the ban entirely, with one major exception: dolls that embody the likeness of real people or those that resemble children. That's probably for the best. On Monday, the Korea Customs Service said that "customs clearance of full-body real dolls in adult shape is allowed."

After this decision was announced, Lee Sang-jin (CEO of an online adult market) said: "We thought our people's rights to seek happiness and use [sex dolls] in their private lives have been restricted by the state. There are various types of people who use [sex dolls], including those who are sexually alienated or those who need them for artistic purposes."