New South Korean Law Might Make Miniskirts Illegal


A law designed to combat indecent exposure and drunken abuse of the police has led to much speculation as to whether or not miniskirts will be deemed illegal once the law comes into effect today.

The law was passed a year ago, under the last administration, but left-leaning newspaper the Hankyoreh argues the legislation sets an ‘authoritarian’ and ‘regressive’ tone for the new president.


The problem, critics argue, is the ambiguity of the new law that says ‘those who show their bare skin excessively in a public place or expose parts of the body that should remain covered, thus making others feel embarrassment or discomfort, are guilty of indecent exposure.’

Under Park Chung-hee’s dictatorship in the 1970s, women could not wear skirts shorter than a government-approved length. Men also could not grow their hair longer than a certain length, leading to situations where the police would grab long-haired men on the street and shave them.

The fact that Park Geun-hye is the daughter of the former ‘strongman’ has inevitably led the press to make comparisons between father and daughter’s rule.

The law is also designed to punish people who abuse the police when under the influence of alcohol, but critics allege the new legislation gives law-enforces too much power.

From the Hankyoreh:

New law gives fines for indecent exposure, begging

‘The first session of the National Assembly under the new Park Geun-hye administration has started a controversy with new measures for the enforcement of the criminal code passed in March of 2012. Lawmakers claim the law has been ‘abused’, as it continues to impose penalties for crimes reminiscent of past eras, noticeably indecent exposure and breaking the government-imposed curfew. Critics say the new law allows for even easier arrest and prosecution of these crimes. Koreans have become more uneasy given the family history of the new president, as many of the controversial laws were emblematic of the Park Chung-hee era.

20th Century Crimes in the 21st Century

A penalty for ‘indecent exposure’ has attracted the most attention, as it would fine anyone convicted of the crime ₩50,000. According to the wording of the new law, set to come into force on the 22nd of March, 2013, ‘anyone who shows their bare skin excessively in a public place or exposes parts of the body that should remain covered and gives feelings of embarrassment or discomfort to other people’ would be guilty of indecent exposure.The wording of the new law dropped the clause forbidding “clothing which is transparent’. Police have explained that ‘the objective of the law is not to prohibit miniskirts’, but since the standard of ‘parts of the body that should remain covered’ is ambiguous, there is concern that it could lead to subjective applications of the law whenever a police officer personally feel it is appropriate.

Other clauses in the law stand out for their possible misuse. Among the laws which can be punished with ‘a fine of up to ₩100,000 or imprisonment’ are ‘obstructing the activities or beliefs of a group or an individual through malicious acts’. The definition of a ‘malicious act’ seems to also be quite vague and has been criticised for its possible misuse.

When police charge an individual with committing a crime, if the individual lacks any personal identification and refuses to undergo a fingerprint test, police can give them additional punishment. Human rights organizations could bring charges of human rights violations against police who force someone to give up physical evidence from their body.

New Laws Target ‘Weaker Members of Society’

new punishmentsAbuse the police? That’s a fine

‘New laws also provide police with the ability to quickly arrest and charge individuals who have drunkenly vandalised police buildings or other public buildings. The reformed criminal code states that ‘individuals under the influence of alcohol who use vulgar language or are abusive within public buildings may be fined up to ₩600,000 or face imprisonment’.

‘A new clause stating that ‘individuals who have been fined less than ₩500,000 but who have a place of residence may not be imprisoned’ seems to want to circumvent the current law and has a ‘creepy’ intention. Oh Chang-ik of the Human Rights Coalition criticised the new lay, saying that, ‘it has long been the privilege of the police to show their irritation to anyone causing trouble inside of a police station, the new law turns this privilege into a legally protected right.’ In response, a spokesmen for the police said that ‘the objective of the law is to prevent certain crimes before they occur.’

new punishments (2)Beg in public? That’s a fine

‘The new law also specifies penalties for “people who obstruct movement in public places or irritate others through begging in public areas.’ Previously, the law only penalised those individuals who forced others to beg, beggars themselves will now become the target of prosecution. The extremely poor individuals who make their living from begging in the subway stations can now be fined up to ₩100,000.

new punishments (3)Refuse to help a government employee? That’s a fine

In addition, it is now illegal to refuse to help a government employee who requests help. People who ‘refuse a request for help from a government employee during a disaster, fire, traffic accident, crime, or other sudden incident without appropriate reason despite being in close proximity’ can be fined up to ₩100,000.

Politicians must clean up their mess

The 19th National Assembly should reform and strongly consider abolishing the the new criminal code that the 18th National Assembly passed without appropriate review or self-reflection.

Hong Sungsoo, a professor of law at Sookmyung Women’s University, offered the criticism, ‘the content of the new criminal code overlaps with much of the current body of law. A civil suit or administrative measure would be sufficient to impose discipline. [Reform of the law] has only increased concerns about misuse of police power. We shouldn’t be considering just reform of the law, rather abolishment in its entirety.’

Lee Sang-kyu, member of the National Assembly and the United Progressive Party, stated that ‘the new criminal code was rushed through the legislative process far too quickly. We need to have a complete review of the entire code.’

Singer Lee Hyori commented on the new law:

@frog799: Are they really going to fine people for indecent exposure?? Well, I’m in trouble

Lee Hyori drinks soju, so should you.

Comments on Twitter:

홍성수 @sungsooh:

Talk about penalties for indecent exposure will only incite ridicule and anger. But after I hear the police’s explanation… This is a problem that should be addressed with insight and care, not attacked with a crude response, as with all problems. I say it again, the real problem is that the criminal code exists at all

최광희 @cinemAgora:

In the future, indecent exposure with be published with a ₩50,000 fine. No, this is not a repeat of news about the crackdown on miniskirts in the 1970s. This is a law that appeared during Park Geun-hye’s first session of the National Assembly. history repeats itself

성재기 @sungjaegi:

Did you think that men and women had equal equal rights to sexual expression? If an erection indicates that a man is aroused, what is the indication for a woman? I believe that exposing themselves is how women show their arousal. Exposure can be thought of as a woman’s erection. Just as you must be careful not to show off an erection in certain places, you should also be careful about showing skin in certain places

백찬홍 @mindgood:

Fines for indecent exposure? In Germany, a lingerie company was able to put up this ad, announcing a sale where customers could exchange their used lingerie for new ones. Prime Minister Merkel is even shown wearing a bikini. This is the essence of a democracy.

선대인 @kennedian3:

[Indecent exposure, ₩50,000. Stalking, ₩80,000. Scalping tickets, ₩160,000] So this is what Park Geun-hye was talking about when she mentioned a society ‘ruled by laws’. She focuses on petty crimes to arrest ordinary citizens and ignores the tax evasion practiced by chaebol chairmen and bureaucrats.

이외수 @oisoo

In regards to the recent controversy over fines for indecent exposure, the only change in the new law is from the immediate indictment process used earlier to a delayed procedural process. Actually, the punishment has been reduced from a court trial, ₩100,000 fine and minimum 30 days in jail to just a ₩50,000 fine. So, this actually isn’t a crackdown on anything. Please take a deep breath


For a limited time until the law comes into effect, it is completely free to expose yourself! Hurry and take advantage of this deal!!

독설닷컴 @dogsul

This seems like the best coverage from today’s editorials.. RT @ktazo: The worst kind of exposure is that which the media gives to Park Geun-hye on their front pages, the worse kind of stalking is surveillance of civilians!

Comments from the Hankyoreh:


Why do young people these days complain so much and get suspicious of everything? Do you think street protests and demonstrations are the same thing as democracy, or that it makes you the intelligentsia? Does justice amount to nothing more than distrusting the government and cursing the president? You cry for cheaper tuition, saying ‘it’s the government’s fault!’, ‘it’s the older generation’s fault!’ Then you get together in after-school clubs to drink and ignore your studies


What the hell does this law have to do with you? Do you think that all of the trash you read on the internet, in SNS, or hear through rumor is the absolute truth? So the government controls everything and everyone in power and manipulates everything through conspiracies?


So, Hankyoreh, then what are we supposed to do about people like that who cause trouble and act in such an objectionable way? When you criticise the government you should at least provide an alternative and not just whine like a child who has hurt feelings. Don’t you know how hard it is for the police to deal with drunken disorderly conduct? Do you even read your own articles? Hmm?


Wow, our local red newspaper has some nerve..


The Hankyoreh is just trying to stir up libelous attacks! Don’t fall for this propaganda

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  • ggoma

    No matter what women wear they have always and will always be seen as sexual objects in the eyes of heterosexual men. Even if you force them back into hanboks.

    • commander

      What makes women empowerment difficut to achieve in a still male-dominating, but progessively changing time is that some women are vocal in ensuring equal treatment as the same human beings as men, whereas other women often take advantage of sexual prejudices against women as their tool to their advantage which sometimes reinforces men’s biased preconception of women in what some men see as women as objects of sexual intercourse rather than partners on the equal footing.

      Thus, in what appears to be an endlessly blame game for women’s underdog status in society, part of blame for any interruption to the advancement of women status should go to some women themselves.

      What this means is that not all guys regard women as sexual objects, hence characterization of one sex as a certian frame risks oversimplication, though such a generalization mainly stems from firsthand awuful expericences from those emotionally charged.

      • Heydri

        The blame should instead go to the parents who teach daughters to behave a certain way such as telling them the only way to succeed is to climb the social ladder through a marriage to a wealthy man, and to those who let their sons carry chauvinistic views. Also, the way the education system is set up is they hardly ever actually educate students on gender equality. Even teachers, esp those that are senior, make misogynist speeches that girls should dress up this way, girls should behave that way etc.

        What you’re saying is as absurd as saying that in the ancient days it was women’s fault that they were viewed as sexual objects and that they perpetuated the misconception of women held by men because they did not stand up against inequality. The bottom line is that the problem is how the misogynist society is set up.

        • dk2020

          Korean women can do anything they want to, from being awesome in figure skating to dominating the LPGA, to being president of the ROK .. with birthrates at an all time low in SoKo but marriages still high most Korean couples only have one child or none .. times are changing more Korean women are becoming empowered its just the old traditional ways and patriarchy, the older generation of conservative right wingers still in control. Korean women are the backbone of Korean culture and I firmly believe in them, Where did the love and sense of jeong go? That Koreans are all family thats how I was raised and thats whats missing nowadays ..

          • Kate

            Ajummas ARE the backbone of Korea. Without ajummas, Korea couldn’t function. THose women are awesome. They are tough as leather, compassionate, skilled, cranky, caring, interesting, funny, strong, hard working, resilient, pro bus seat snatchers and power walkers, and fun to interact with (though they can be a bit domineering, actually a lot domineering ). I love ajummas. Ajusshis are fun too, especially when they’re cute old men :)

        • commander

          The gist of my commentary with regard to equality of men and women is that if one gender delivers a blistering attack on the other as a whole for what the former see as solidified and perpetualized glass ceilings by thr latter, this castigation is hardly helpful in bringing out improved gender equality.

          The crucial but oft-overlooking approach for enhanced gender equality is to build consensus on necessity for changes in treating, educating and employing women, a much better way than one assigning blame for female discrimination to men, which only provokes a controversy.

          As you rightly point out, if it is societal structure that needs overhauling for more equal ground for women, it is more necessary to strike an agreement allowing men and women to reflect on gender issues, rather than pointing an angry finger at men for all kinds of discriminations women face.

          • Heydri

            If you read my comment carefully, I did NOT blame the discrimination on the men. It is the society, especially teachers and families, that perpetuate such views.

          • dk2020

            You don’t think it’s progressing with the younger generation because it has to? Proof is the lower birthrate and Korean women not getting married early to start families, focusing on education and careers instead, thats whats happening in any developed nation. I don’t think there are arraigned marriages anymore or anything like that. SoKo is struggling with modernization with still trying to hold on to traditional values. I don’t think Korean society is failing though, failure is when the govt spends more on prisons than education.

          • Heydri

            True, I can see that women’s rights are growing and more women exhibit excellence as time passes. However, they are at a deadlock when the job environmen and some sexist elders limit the ability that women can flourish. Discrimination on women exist still. Even my sister, who goes to a Korean school says that one of her teachers frequents things like “Stop talking so much. A girl shouldn’t speak that much” when they are scolding students. So right now, SoKo women are in the midst of conflicting views, a traditional and a modern.

            The more the citizens realize the importance of feminism, the harder the backlash on the internet. The comments are very misogynist and it is said that even some immature adolescents try to imitate others by writing such comments too. I just wish these young students grow up and throw away what those sexist comments ingrained in their minds. Excluding these kids, we have a brighter future.

          • dk2020

            Just 3 years ago corporal punishment in schools was banned in the major cities and wasn’t there a student bills of rights introduced? I’ve noticed lots of younger people in Korea just blaming the culture and society without having any real answers either. Feminism studies is cool but I think this instant gratification generation needs to have a little more patience and stand up and fight when the time comes ..

            The internet is a joke, full of idiot trolls .. I don’t even read the comments from ilbe are just a bunch of cynical whiners just like some of the commenters on here are very hostile but I dunno because I didn’t grow up in Korea. I know the culture is very hard and super competitive.. they need to cut back 14 hour school days ..

    • Brett

      I don’t know about much, but I am looking forward to the future protests. Picture it: thousands of girls in their miniskirts, picketing throughout Seoul… Ahhh, I guess that’s not much different from daily life here, less the picketing.

    • jon776

      Viewing a woman as someone to have sex with is not objectification.

  • Ruaraidh

    Skirt length to be strictly regulated by government. In unrelated news; share prices in the kpop industry fell sharply today…

    • Brett

      I’m pretty sure this law was made to get rid of the Chinese guys who walk around with their shirts rolled up over their bellies in public.

      • Ruaraidh

        That is indeed extremely indecent.

      • dk2020

        ahaha its not summertime yet ..

    • markus peg

      I want to here more about this.

      • Eduardo m.


  • Fuck. This.

    The basis of this law relies on the assumption that women are responsible for their own rapes and that men have no control over their own sexual urges.

    In other words, misogyny and sexism for everyone!! I’ve seriously had it up to here with all the slut-shaming that so permeates Korean culture.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    If this law is able in any way to curb public urination and drunken ranting I’ll gladly trade that for a couple less inches of agashi thigh.

    I (thank heavens) haven’t seen much of my stalker in the past six months – hopefully she’s institutionalised somewhere – but I hope she reads about this.

    • dk2020

      .. too much soju and makkoli leads to public urination and drunken ranting not miniskirts ..

  • YourSupremeCommander

    That girl in pink w/ the Chanel bag has to be high high maintenance, but damn she fine, I could bang her for days till I can’t walk no more.

    • Joe

      Nobody cares. Go back to redtube’s comment section.

      • Pickle

        I care. Keep on posting Commander!

      • YourSupremeCommander

        Shut up joe, i see you like “kids”.

        • Joe

          Wut m8?

    • Pickle

      I agree, she HOT!!!

    • Thor

      I’d bang all four of them for days providing I can check beforehand whether the “Chanel girl” is really as hot as the three other ones.

  • Joe

    Growing up, my high school had rules like this. They would measure girls’ skirts and the general rule was that skirts could be no more than a dollar bill’s length above the knees. You could be sent home for the day for disobeying.

    That, then, was a private high school. This, now, is the Republic Of Korea. A democracy. Are you fucking serious?

  • dk2020

    SMH, this just gives more power to the cops and an very easy way to fine women being how popular miniskirts are as the fashion trend. i always thought of Korean women wearing miniskirts as a sort of sexual liberation being how conservative the older generation is. The real problem is alcoholism that is leads to all this bad behavior .. no open-container laws, bars and clubs being open all night etc.

    PS .. I love Hyori!

    • Brett

      Right, one thing I don’t get is that there are no clear definitions of what would cause someone to be uncomfortable or embarrassed. The cops could run with this and dish out fines or arrest people all day.

      • Kate

        Yup. Before I became pregnant (sensibly did not during), I wore miniskirts and short dresses in Korea. Now that I’m not pregnant again and summer is coming, I’m still probably going to (because damnit I’ve been at the gym everyday). Don’t be surprised if you see the next kbang title “Foreign woman arrested for resisting arrest over mini skirt scandal”


  • ChuckRamone

    Then they should make it illegal for dudes to wear skinny jeans.

    • YourSupremeCommander

      Do they wear their jeans in Korean where they appear they are about to fall off? Any gangstas care to comment?

    • Do they ban women from skinny jeans?If so,go ahead n ban the men too.If not,shut the heck up

  • Pickle

    Up with miniskirts!
    I thought the law about not helping a public official is fucked up and could be easily abused what with all the crooked politicians.

  • commander

    If embarassment and discomfort is the ground for the miniskirt-restricting law, all of actions that create those feelings should be also subject to the issuance of fines. And more troubling is, as one commentators displayed his infatuation with the above girl in the photo, some women with short pants on may create pleasure for some passers by while other spectaculars find it embarassing. Mixed repsonse, principally among male standbys, at the sight of much-revealing women might be a big obstacle to clarifying the law’s application.

    Further going, although it is a rarity in Korea, protestors occassionally use nudity as an effective tool to broaden the reach of their demonstration.
    Should those activists or artistic performers in the nude be subject to penalty provided by what human rights activist describes as a justification for possible violations of human rights? This is where a controversy over untenable discretion exercise by the polide comes in.

    But the envioned law has some upsides. Drunkun scuffles and wrangling inside police stations during the weekend’s night have long been a real nuisance, but a scene that have been treated with great tolerance because of South Koreans is ususally tolerant of alcohol-induced mistakes or fuss.

    But changes should be made in the treatment of dunkards especially when those drunken who go on the rampage go overboard. The police should be vested with more powers to give penalties to those troublemakers.

  • Brett

    And they said Ms. Park would be different from her dad…

    • carmouflagger

      Ms. Park is just jealous since she can’t wear minis now.

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  • A Gawd Dang Mongolian

    Abuse the police? That’s a paddlin’.
    Beg in public? That’s a paddlin’.
    Refuse to help a government employee? That’s a paddlin’.
    Wearing miniskirts? That’s a BIG paddlin’.

  • Eduardo m.

    did one of the korean comments compared boners to showing legs?

  • bultak23

    Who cares, they won’t give us americans the time of day.
    나는 관심이 없다. 한국여자들은 미국남자을 아주 싫어한다.

    • dk2020

      █████████████████████████████░░ ████████░░░░░░░░░▀███████████░░
      ░█░░░░█░░░░▄ ░░░░░░░░░░░░░░█░█░░

  • The inventory write-downs are going to be huge.

  • chucky3176

    Tis all lies.

    No, Korea is not going the way of 1970’s. There are no actual plans for draconian rule of law to take effect. This “news” were spread by three of the most leftist papers in South Korea – Ohmynews, Kyunghyang, and Hankyore – who are traditional opponents of the Conservative governments. The netizens from there are not happy that president Park Geun Hye who is the daughter of Park Jung Hee won the election. They are deliberately spreading or choosing to believe these rumors. They’re point is that since Park won the election, she’s going to be another dictator, like her father. But sorry people, South Korea is never going to be like in the 1970’s because the people won’t allow that to happen, no matter who’s in charge.

  • chucky3176

    These “law” aren’t “new” laws. They’ve always been existed in South Korean criminal codes. But just like the adultery law, it’s rarely enforced, if ever. It is irresponsible journalism used as political tools, to spread these lies to give people the wrong impression that something new has happened, when nothing new has happened. These laws were still there when there were liberal governments who were in power, yet the liberal governments did not strike them down, nor were there any calls of concerns then. So why are people bringing them up now? Like I said, this is why the liberal political movement is struggling in South Korea. They keep using lies like these which hurt their credibility later when voters realize later they were lied to made fools of.

    • chucky3176

      Someone has emailed me that these laws are used to counter Peeping Tom’s, and what Koreans call “바바리맨” (men naked inside, who expose themselves by opening up their long coats in front of women). As for the police, they are often pushed around by drunks in police stations, and that’s not going to change any time soon. Some in the Korean press are trying to fool and whip up the masses. Lot of Koreans are more wised up to this familiar game.

  • dk2020

    Asiana to Drop Skirts-Only Policy For Female Flight Attendants

    Here’s something along the same lines .. but it’s all about the freedom of choice ..

  • good move! u don’t see men allowed into high end restaurants, clubs n work in short pants do u? u don’t see men wearing microshorts casually in public or during stage performance right? unless a policy is launched to encourage all boys/men to expose with microshorts in hot weather, otherwise I’m wholly against women taking advantage of miniskirt rights

  • KCdude

    South Korea needs an extensive reformation in its civil laws. Even though I’m a conservative Korean-Canadian, I now passionately hate Park Geun-hye because she doesn’t acknowledge that there are huge problems. A good conservative leader takes care of his or her country’s laws to bring peace to the public. She is a direct opposite of a well-respected democratic leader from a right wing POV. I’m very afraid that she’s a bigger threat than North Korea. Please prove me wrong.

  • Alleluyah

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  • Foreign victim of the law

    Why is it illegal to take a photo of a woman in public when she is dressed in such fashion? I was fined W5,000,000 for taking a photo of a coed dress in micro-shorts and extremely tall high heels.

  • Guest

    I think people have a right to be nude in public, so long as their genitals are never at risk of touching anyone or anything. Meaning any time you are in a crowded places, you have to cover up, if you wear super short skirt, you have to wear underwear underneath. I don’t care if someone across the street from me is completely naked even if they are ugly, but I shouldn’t ever have to sit on a chair with their ‘smears’ on it!

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