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South Korean court recognizes gay couple's rights

February 21, 2023

An appeals court ruled in favor of a gay couple who sued the National Health Insurance Service. LGBT advocates said it was the first time a court had recognized a same-sex union in the country.

So Seong-wook and Kim Yong-min wearing rainbow scarves, other activists holding colorful signs
So Seong-wook and Kim Yong-min celebrated alongside LGBT rights activists outside the court on TuesdayImage: picture alliance

A South Korean court recognized the rights of a same-sex couple for the first time on Tuesday, but the case could now go on to be heard by the country's Supreme Court.

Gay couple So Seong-wook and Kim Yong-min sued the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) in 2021 after it refused them spousal coverage. On Tuesday, an appeals court ruled in their favor.

"Today, we have our rights recognized within the legal system," Kim said after the ruling.

"This represents a victory for everyone wishing for equality for same-sex couples."

What was the court case about?

So and Kim had their own wedding ceremony in 2019, but South Korea does not recognize same-sex marriages.

A lower court previously ruled in favor of the insurer, but the appeals court on Tuesday said that spousal insurance coverage was not just for families as defined by law and that denying such coverage to same-sex couples constituted discrimination.

The court also said its "biggest responsibility" is to protect minorities because courts are the "last bastion" of human rights.

"This ruling is significant as the first decision legally recognizing same-sex couples to be made by a court at any level in South Korea," said Amnesty International's East Asia researcher Jang Boram.

The NHIS said it plans to appeal the decision.

zc/nm (AFP, Reuters)