South Korea Lightens Up on Sex Dolls

Nation relaxes ban on foreign, full-size dolls after confiscating them for years
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 26, 2022 9:00 AM CST
South Korea: Go Ahead, Import Your Sex Dolls
A lawmaker Lee Yong-ju, who brought a sex doll, speaks during a parliamentary inspection at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, on Oct. 18, 2019. South Korea has ended a ban on importing full-body sex dolls, ending years of debate over how much the government can interfere in private life.   (Lee Jong-chul/Newsis via AP)

Seoul has joyous tidings for South Koreans who found their Christmas haul lacking a little je ne sais quoi: After years of being stymied by customs, the AP reports that citizens are now free to go online and order themselves an imported sex doll. The move ends years of debate over government interference in private life; the AP notes that while no specific ban on foreign sex dolls exists, customs officials have long seized the dolls under a portion of the law that bans the import of goods that “harm the country’s beautiful traditions and public moral." Importers complained and took their case to courts, most of which agreed with them and ordered customs to release the sex dolls, saying they are used in people’s private spaces and don’t undermine human dignity.

The customs service said it will still ban the import of child-like sex dolls or others embodying certain people. It said other countries like the United States, Australia, and the UK also ban child-like sex dolls. While the decision reflects South Korea’s slow yet gradual moves to restrict state interference in personal lives, some women’s rights and conservative organizations will likely again voice their opposition to the use of sex dolls. They say they deepen sexual objectification of women and undermine public morality.

Carenshare Co., a South Korean company that imports sex dolls, said in a statement that it was “deplorable” for the customs service to lift the import ban after allegedly wasting taxpayers’ money for lawsuits with importers. The company said it has suffered immense losses. It said South Korea must reform other regulations that have a negative impact on the economy. “We thought our people’s rights to seek happiness and use (sex dolls) in their private lives have been restricted by the state,” said Lee Sang-jin, who headed one of the company’s online shopping malls. “There are various types of people who use (sex dolls), including those who are sexually alienated or those who need them for artistic purposes.” Lee said the decision by customs was “reasonable" but “bit late.”

South Korean authorities don’t crack down on the sale of domestically made sex dolls, but their quality is in general inferior to those made abroad, Lee said. Lee said his former company has already taken back more than 20 sex dolls from customs officials through lawsuits. He said the company has filed separate lawsuits seeking government compensation as many of the retrieved sex dolls became unusable following about two years of seizures by the customs service. The customs service’s decision would allow importers to get back their sex dolls held in government storages run by the agency. Customs officials said they still likely hold more than 1,000 sex dolls that had been sent to South Korea since 2018.

(Read more South Korea stories.)

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