Cheating South Korean movie director cannot have a divorce despite years-long affair with Cannes actress because he is not the victim, court rules
- Movie director Hong Sang-soo, 58, is in a relationship with actress Kim Min-hee
- Hong filed for divorce from his wife because of the affair but he was denied
- South Korea doesn’t allow divorce unless injured party initiates the separation
A South Korean movie director has been told he cannot divorce his wife, despite cheating on her for several years with an actress who starred in his movies.
Hong Sang-soo, 58, a Cannes film festival regular, filed for divorce in 2016, shortly after his relationship with actress Kim Min-hee became public.
However, a court ruled on Friday that only the injured party in a marriage could initiate a legal separation in South Korea.
Despite the years of cheating, Hong’s wife, who was only referred to as ‘A’ in court, refused to agree to the divorce – leading to a drawn-out legal battle.
The director married his wife in 1985 and they have a daughter together.
Hong Sang-soo, 58, filed for divorce in 2016, shortly after his relationship with actress Kim Min-hee became public (pictured together at the Berlinale Festival in 2017)
In South Korea, the divorce laws are intended to protect women, whose unfaithful husbands could otherwise easily separate from them without justification.
Extra-marital affairs were only decriminalised in South Korea in 2015 and the country remains conservative.
Before that, an affair risked a two-year prison sentence and public disapproval of them is still strong.
Rumours of Hong’s affair with Kim first started spreading in 2015.
In 2017, after the affair became public, Hong’s film On the Beach at Night Alone saw Kim play an out-of-work actress reeling from an affair with a married director.
Kim won the best actress Berlinale that year and has also appeared at the Cannes festival.
However, she has struggled to inspire warmth among the South Korean public because of the affair.
Seoul Family Court on Friday dismissed Hong’s petition, and awarded costs against him.
Kim Min-Hee, Isabelle Huppert and Hong Sang-soo ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’ premiere at Cannes in 2017
The director married his wife in 1985 and they have a daughter together, but he wants to get a divorce
The law against adultery was originally intended to safeguard the rights of women at a time when marriage offered them some of their only legal protections.
Most had no independent income, and divorce carried enormous social stigma.
In 2015, when the country’s highest court reaffirmed that only the injured party could initiate a divorce, it said ‘gender equality had some way to go’.
Judges said women would be particularly vulnerable if unfaithful husbands were allowed to divorce them without any justifiable complaint.
Opponents of the current divorce laws say they violate individual freedoms and trap people in unhappy marriages.