South Koreans eye forbidden fruit
ASHLEY Madison has launched its adultery hook-up site in South Korea, where marital infidelity is a crime punishable by up to two years in prison.
Within a week, 46,000 people had signed up and chief executive Noel Biderman said the company was targeting a membership of around 500,000 - or 1 per cent of the total population.
The website is no stranger to Asia, having already been launched in Japan, India and Hong Kong, but South Korea offers particular challenges, given a 1953 statute that criminalises adultery.
Mr Biderman believes the law is "hopelessly outdated" but still heeded legal advice not to attend the South Korea launch in person.
Singapore's Media Development Authority banned the website in November, saying it constituted an attack on "our family values and public morality".
Like Singapore, South Korea is modern but socially conservative.
Korea Communications Standards Commission official Song Myung Hoon said the commission had been "closely monitoring" Ashley Madison since its launch.
"We know this website is problematic and are discussing internally what to do with it," Mr Song said, while acknowledging that there was nothing inherently criminal about the website.
South Korea's adultery law is not much of a deterrent, and conviction usually results in a suspended sentence rather than actual jail time. But it remains on the statute books, despite half a dozen referrals for review to the country's Constitutional Court.
Mr Song indicated that the commission's monitoring of Ashley Madison was partly focused on whether subscribers might use the site for illegal activities.
"We can shut down the website if there is evidence of anything like online prostitution, for example," he said.