The rights of a same-sex couple have been recognized by a South Korean court in a landmark decision, and advocates have hailed this as a significant victory for LGBTQ equality in the nation.
Gay couple So Seong-wook and Kim Yong-min, who live together and held a wedding ceremony in 2019, in 2021 had sued the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) after they were refused spousal coverage by it. An appeals court ruled in their favor on Feb 21st, 2023.
After the decision, Kim declared with joy that now they had their rights recognized within the legal system.
However, it must be noted that South Korea does not recognize same-sex marriage.
South Korean court says
In 2021, So filed a law suite against the NHIS because it terminated benefits for his partner, whom he had registered as a dependent after they discovered they were a gay couple.
Though a lower court ruled in favor of the NHIS last year, nevertheless. in a significant turnaround, the decision was overturned by the High Court in Seoul, thereby effectively ordering the insurance provider to resume benefits to So’s partner.
According to reports of the AFP, the NHIS will appeal.
Jang Boram of Amnesty International stated that this judgment is significant since it is the first decision that a court in South Korea has ever made and thereby providing official recognition of same-sex relationships. Boram further stated that although South Korea still has a long way to go to eliminate prejudice, this decision gave people hope.
Gay relationships though are not criminalized, LGBTQ people tend to live largely under the radar. Activists have long emphasized the need for legislation against discrimination based on sexual orientation and a much-discussed anti-discrimination law has languished in the South Korean parliament for years, due to a lack of consensus among parliamentarians.
Many who tend to be scared of being labeled as an activist in South Korea’s conformist society, go abroad to marry. Kim Kyu-jin who sees herself as just a working woman last year had flown to New York to tie the knot at a Manhattan marriage bureau.
The issue of same-sex marriage is primarily ignored in South Korea and many of its East Asian neighbors.
Like other same-sex couples, in 2013, filmmaker Kim Jho Gwang-soo also celebrated a symbolic marriage ceremony with his longtime partner. Though the pair had exchanged their vows in public on a bridge, later they fought an unsuccessful legal battle to register their union.
Conservatives and the clergy frequently oppose same-sex unions violently. Last year, right-wing MPs proposed legislation that would do away with any mention of “sexual orientation” as a potential basis for discrimination from the National Human Rights Commission of Korea’s remit.
Even the former liberal President Moon Jae-in, during the 2017 election had stated that he despised homosexuality and had no intention of legalizing it.