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Asia

South Korea allows import of sex dolls as private matter

SEOUL: South Korea has formally ended a ban on the import of full-body sex dolls, ending years of debate over how much the government can interfere in private life.

Although there are no laws or regulations banning the import of sex dolls, hundreds and perhaps thousands have been seized by the customs, which cited a clause in 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 do not undermine human dignity.

On Monday (Dec 26), the Korea Customs Service said in a statement that it began enforcing a revised guideline to get life-size adult sex dolls into the country. It said it reviewed recent court rulings and opinions from relevant government agencies including the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.

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 into 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 the sexual objectification of women and undermine public morals.

Lee Sang-jin, a former head of a local company that imports sex dolls, welcomed the customs service’s decision.

“It’s a reasonable decision though it came bit late,” Lee 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.”

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 storage 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.

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