South Korea: Customs agency allows sex doll imports

South Korean officials declared the import of “full-body” sex dolls was allowed, but child-like dolls would still be banned. Importers said the decision was “reasonable.”

South Korea has formally ended a ban on the import of full-body sex dolls, three years after the country’s top court ruled the objects were not obscene.

The Korea Customs Service said in a statement on Monday that “customs clearance of full-body real dolls in adult shape is allowed.”

Ban on child-like dolls remains

A ban on dolls with child-like forms would remain with the customs agency saying that “real dolls in the shape of minors is prohibited.”

The agency said that when considering dolls depicting minors, overall appearance, height, weight, face and voice would be taken into account.

This would be in line with countries like the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, all of whom ban child-like dolls.

The customs agency had only allowed the clearance of sex-dolls with particular body parts, and not full-body dolls since July.

While there had been no law explicitly banning the import of sex dolls, they were being seized by customs officials citing a clause in legislation banning goods which harmed South Korea’s traditions and public morals.

Lifting of ban welcomed by importers

Importers took their case to court arguing that the objects were used privately and therefore did not impinge on human dignity.

Lee Sang-jin who is the former head of a company that imports sex-dolls, was pleased with the 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.”

The decision means that importers will now be able to retrieve their dolls held by customs authorities in storage facilities.

South Korea lifts ban on import of adult sex dolls

South Korean officials have lifted an import ban on adult-sized sex dolls. 

The decision comes after years of debate over whether the government was interfering in people’s private lives. 

The revised guidelines allow adult-shaped dolls through customs, but child-like dolls resembling minors are still prohibited, the Korea Customs Service said.

Sex dolls are not illegal in South Korea. However, thousands of them have been seized in customs since 2018.

Officials blocked the import of life-size sex dolls under a law that restricts goods that are seen as harming South Korea’s traditions and public morals. 

Importers initially took their complaints to court asking for the ban to be lifted and for the release of the dolls in customs. They said the products did not impinge on human dignity. 

In 2019, the Supreme Court upheld a decision that sex dolls are used for personal use and fall under the same category as pornography, which is tightly regulated, but legal.

Nearly a quarter million, however, people signed a petition to stop the import of these dolls into South Korea. The unidentified author of the petition said the dolls could lead to an increase in sex crimes. 

The matter was resolved when customs officials decided to lift the ban. They said in a statement that the decision was made after reviewing recent court rulings and opinions from relevant government agencies including the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. 

The decision also allows importers to retrieve their products from government custody. Customs officials said they still likely hold more than 1,000 sex dolls that had arrived in South Korea over the last four years.

But custom officials said they would ban the sale of sex dolls that resemble real people, such as celebrities. 

It’s unclear if the sale ban also applies to domestically made sex dolls that look like minors – but such restrictions exist in Australia, the UK and and US. 

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