South Korea: Court gives hope to same-sex couples


2019 Seoul Queer Pride Parade in South Korea (Pic: Gaberoonie)

A South Korean court has for the first time recognised the rights of a same-sex couple, sparking hope that it’s the first step towards marriage equality becoming a reality in the country.

The South Korea High Court on Tuesday ordered the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) to resume coverage for a partner in a same-sex relationship.

The couple held a wedding ceremony in 2019 and live together as a married couple, although their relationship is not recognised under South Korean law.

They were the first couple to be able to register a same-sex ‘dependent’ under the NHIS but the NHIS cancelled this dependent status eight months later.

“This is an important decision that moves South Korea closer to achieving marriage equality,” commented Amnesty International’s East Asia Researcher Boram Jang.

“By not recognising partners in same-sex relationships, the National Health Insurance Service was discriminating against same-sex couples, denying basic rights afforded to couples of the opposite sex. Today’s ruling will help to rectify this wrong.

“This ruling is significant as the first decision legally recognising same-sex couples to be made by a court at any level in South Korea, but much more needs to be done to end discrimination against, and criminalisation of, the LGBTI community,” said Boram.

Boram explained that this should include the adoption of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law and the abolition of Article 92-6 of the Military Criminal Act which punishes homosexual acts in the military with a up two years in prison.

Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage in May 2019. Legislation recognising marriage between same-sex couples went into effect this month in Slovenia and Andorra, bringing the global total of countries recognising same-sex marriage in law to 33.

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