South Korean court recognises legal status of same-sex couples for first time

Gay pride activists in South Korea  (Getty Images)
Gay pride activists in South Korea (Getty Images)

A court in South Korea has ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to the same spousal coverage under the national health insurance service as heterosexual couples for the first time.

This ruling overturned a decision by a lower court which stripped the same-sex couples of the medical benefits available to heterosexual spouses.

The previous court had cited that marriage in South Korea is marked as a union between a man and a woman with no legal grounds to expand the concept to same-sex couples.

The latest ruling was the court’s “first recognition of the legal status of a same-sex couple”, said Park Han-hee, a lawyer who represented the plaintiff.

The decision was welcomed by the couple who launched the legal petition, So Sung-uk and Kim Yong-min.

“I am delighted because I felt like the judges told us through a court decision that the feelings of love I have for my husband should not be the target of ignorance or insults,” So told reporters, according to the Herald.

Kim said: “It took us such a long time to have our marriage status recognised within the legal framework.”

Plaintiff So Seong-wook took action against the National Health Insurance Service after the body asked him to pay insurance premiums for not meeting the eligibility criteria of being his male spouse’s dependent.

He was initially granted cover by the agency under his partner’s employer-based health insurance programme as a dependent in February 2020. However, the decision was revoked on the basis of their same-sex marriage, Mr So said.

The plaintiff said he and his partner were discriminated against by the NHIS.

South Korea does not legally recognise same-sex marriages.