Landmark ruling: Korean court recognises same-sex marriages rights

The Seoul high court has recognised the legal rights of same-sex couples for the first time. The landmark ruling was widely hailed as a major victory for LGBTQ rights in the country.

South Korea does not officially recognise same-sex marriage, but today’s ruling is the “first recognition of the legal status of a same-sex couple”, said a lawyer who represented the plaintiff. A gay couple who got married in 2019, sued the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) in 2021, after one of the partners was denied from the health insurance coverage. In January 2022, the couple’s petition was turned down by a lower court which ruled in favour of the NHIS.

“We are delighted. It is not only our victory but also a victory for many same-sex couples and LGBTQ families in Korea,” the couple said after the ruling. Amnesty International praised the decision, stating: “This is an important decision that moves South Korea closer to achieving marriage equality. There is still a long way to go to end discrimination against the LGBTI community, but this ruling offers hope that prejudice can be overcome.”

“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 LGBTQ+ community,” Amnesty International’s statement added.

Meanwhile, 32 countries in the world have legalized same-sex marriage, only 3 of them are located in Asia. Taiwan was the first Asian state to legalize it in 2019. For Korea, the researcher at Amnesty recommended “the adoption of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law and abolition of the Article 92-6 of the Military Criminal Act.”