The Korea Herald


[Pressure points] My neighbor is having an affair. Should I tell on him?

By No Kyung-min

Published : July 2, 2024 - 15:42

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How delicate is the line when deciding to expose someone else's extramarital affair?

A recent post on local online discussion forum website Nate Pann titled, "Should I ignore the affairs of my neighbor?" sparked a heated debate on this hot-button issue.

The anonymous author of the post, who identified themselves as a person living next door to a newlywed couple, reported witnessing the husband bringing different women into his house frequently.

"The wife does shift work early in the morning, while the husband seems to be unemployed," the author wrote, pitying the wife for seeming unaware of what appeared to be her husband cheating.

Stating their desire to tell the truth, yet fearing potential repercussions for being overly nosy, the author asked, "I should pretend to know nothing about it, right?"

Play it safe

While the urge to expose one's neighbor’s suspected betrayal of their wedding vows might be tempting, many commenters sought to dissuade the poster from crossing the line.

In a complex world in which not all factors are known, what seems like a well-meaning act might not be received as one, many advised.

One commenter advocated keeping a low profile, as the situation could develop into a messy drama: "Personally, I'd stay tight-lipped. There's a high risk of getting caught in the crossfire of their domestic dispute."

Another commenter highlighted the possibility the author could get blamed later, saying, "If they reconcile, the blame might get pointed at you."

Others suggested that the wife is likely to become aware of the situation, with one comment quoting the Korean proverb, "One's tail is bound to get stepped on if it is long."

Whether or not to divulge the truth hinges on the closeness of the relationship, Lee Shin-jung, a 23-year-old Seoul resident, wrote.

“If the relationship with the neighbor couple stays at the level of common courtesy, that close, why risk getting on their bad side?” Lee questioned. “Yet, if such infidelity were to befall my best friend, the situation might turn out very differently.”

However, Jung Jae-hyun, a 30-something office worker, countered Lee’s argument, acknowledging the limitations of an outsider's perspective.

“Since there's always more to the story than what appears on the surface," Jung explained, “You can't truly fathom the intricacies of a couple's dynamics from the outside." He continued that he would steer clear of such thorny issues, unless he witnessed clear signs of physical or sexual abuse, even with “his closest friends.”

Take the moral high ground

On the other hand, some commenters preferred a more assertive course of action, championing the idea of bringing the truth to light for the seemingly unsuspecting wife.

One commenter took issue with taking a passive stance, asking, "Isn't feigning ignorance akin to condoning the situation?"

Similarly, another user underscored the importance of fostering a society based on mutual aid and empathy, asking, "Wouldn't you wish for your neighbors to intervene if your partner were being unfaithful?"

Instead of direct approaches, however, many favored subtlety, in an effort to minimize the risk of becoming entangled in the couple's potential conflict.

Seemingly casual inquiries, for instance, might do the job of planting a seed of doubt. A vague question such as, "asking the wife whether her sisters have been visiting lately," could indirectly address the issue of her husband's mysterious visitors, an online user said.

Furthermore, for those wishing to use more direct means, well-meaning whispers can travel through alternative channels.

One person proposed anonymously reaching out via social media, such as sending a message to the wife via Instagram. Another opted for a more physical approach, like "leaving a discreet note on the door for her to find when she returns from work."

The debate surrounding infidelity took a turn toward moral considerations when a Seoul resident in her 40s, Choi, weighed in, shedding light on the ethical implications from her point of view.

"I understand adultery is no longer a criminal offense," Choi wrote. "Infidelity, however, remains a betrayal of trust. Upholding this moral standpoint is therefore essential in building a society that values core principles like honesty and fidelity."

South Korea's legal landscape regarding infidelity changed in February 2015 when the Constitutional Court declared Article 241 of the Criminal Code, which had criminalized adultery for 62 years, to be unconstitutional.

"Pressure points" delves into the seemingly trivial, yet surprisingly contentious topics that ignite debate in our everyday lives. -- Ed.