Sex & Gender /

South Korean Court Rules In Favor of Health Benefits for Same-Sex Couples

Same-sex partners can be listed as dependents for National Health Insurance Service even though same-sex marriage is not legally recognized

Same-sex couples will be able to qualify for spousal coverage for state health insurance in South Korea following a new court ruling.

Same-sex marriage does not have any legal recognition in South Korea. A lower court had previously found that the nation’s current laws do not equate a same-sex union to a common law marriage. The court ruled the National Health Insurance Service did not need to provide spousal benefits to the partners of same-sex couples.

The Seoul High Court’s decision is the “first recognition of the legal status of a same-sex couple,” per Reuters. The decision is the conclusion of a legal battle brought by So Sung-wook, who sued the National Health Insurance Service in 2021.

So’s partner Kim Yong-min was denied spousal benefits by the National Health Insurance Service, which had granted the benefits to other common law couples. Kim, who had been registered as So’s dependent, was ordered to make up insurance contributions because they do not have a legally recognized marital status.

After the lower court’s decision, So and his partner appealed to the high court.

After the first trial, despite the loss, I said that our love won, is winning and will win,” So told reporters on Feb. 21, per CNN. “And today demonstrates more clearly that our love has won and is winning.”

I’m really happy that through this ruling, the world will be more aware of the inequality that my husband and I, as well as other sexual minorities in South Korea, have gone through,” he added. 

So and Kim held a wedding ceremony in 2019 but are legally unable to register as a married couple.

According to The Guardian, “more than 30 countries, including Taiwan, have legalized same-sex marriage, but it is still illegal in South Korea and Japan, where pressure is building for a change to the law before the country hosts the G7 summit in May.”

While campaigning in 2017, the former president of South Korea Moon Jae-in said that he disliked homosexuality and had “no intention” of legalizing same-sex marriage, per The Washington Post. Following his election, Moon said the South Korean population as a society “has yet to reach a consensus” on legalizing same-sex unions. Moon is considered a liberal politician. 

Yoon Suk Yeol, South Korea’s current president, has said that legally recognizing same-sex marriage could have a “significant social impact,” per VOA News

Although one may have the right to choose their sexual orientation, I think we need a careful approach to the issue because denying biologically assigned genders and recognizing same-sex couples could have significant social impact,” Yoon said in May.

The National Health Insurance Service reportedly plans to appeal the ruling.

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