South Korean Court Recognizes Same-Sex Couples' Rights

    South Korean Court Recognizes Same-Sex Couples' Rights
    Last updated Feb 21, 2023
    Image credit: EPA [via The Guardian]


    • On Tuesday, the Seoul High Court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to spousal coverage under the national health insurance service (NHIS) and that denying insurance coverage based on sexual orientation amounts to discrimination.
    • In its judgment, the appellate court noted the spousal coverage system under the NHIS was not just for families as defined by law, and protecting the rights of minorities is the "biggest responsibility" of the court as the "last bastion" of human rights.
    • The landmark decision overturned a lower court ruling in January 2022 that a same-sex dependent was ineligible for benefits as the union isn't considered under the country's common-law marriage statute.
    • The decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed by So Seong-wook in 2021 against the NHIS after the state health insurer revoked spousal coverage for his partner Kim Yong-min as they were a gay couple.
    • This ruling — now heading to the Supreme Court — is the first time the country has recognized the rights of a same-sex couple. The NHIS has indicated that it intends to challenge the decision.
    • While South Korea doesn't legally recognize same-sex marriage, gay relationships aren't criminalized.


    Left narrative

    Though there's still a long way to go to end discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, the ruling is a positive step for LGBTQ+ rights as it moves South Korea closer to achieving marriage equality. Societal norms have changed considerably since these laws were put in place, and it's only suitable that the law changes to keep up with the times.

    Right narrative

    While everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, should be protected from discrimination, this ruling directly contradicts South Korea's legal and moral stance on traditional family and marriage — the bedrock of its society — and likely won't hold up in the Supreme Court.

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