South Korean Court Recognizes The Legal Status Of Same-Sex Spouses For The First Time

An important first step in the right direction!

On Tuesday, February 21, a South Korean high court ruled that in a same-sex relationship, the spouse is eligible to be listed as the dependent in the national health insurance coverage in the partner’s subscription.

Kim Yong Min (left) and So Sung Uk (right), the couple whose petition got the landmark ruling | The Guardian

According to South Korea’s national insurance policies, a spouse who doesn’t have a source of income can be exempted from contributing to health insurance if the other person is an employee and is a policyholder. But in the case of So Sung Uk and Kim Young Min, a gay couple, both were legally bound to pay their contributions separately. So, in February 2021, they petitioned to cancel the National Health Insurance Service‘s decision to demand back payments from the non-earning partner. But in January 2022, their petition was rejected by a lower court, which didn’t recognize the gay couple’s marriage stating that marriage is a union only between a man and a woman.

The couple outside the high court on Tuesday | Yonhap

The high court’s ruling overturned this verdict in a historical decision. The high court judge revoked the contributions imposed on the couple and also directed the NHIS to compensate the attorney fee for both parties.

The plaintiff and his partner are both male, but they agreed to recognize each other as loving partners who take care of each other. One financially relies on the other. They declared their partnership before their families and friends. This makes their relationship no different in essence from that of a married couple.

—The high court’s ruling

Though the court acknowledged that this is the first ruling in the country that validates the status of a same-sex partner as an eligible dependant under national insurance, it doesn’t imply that it recognizes the legal status of same-sex marriage as well.

But to So Sung Uk and Kim Yong Min, acknowledgmentment as a same-sex couple within the legal boundaries of the country is a hopeful development.

I feel delighted because I felt like the judges told us through this court decision that my feelings of love for my husband shall not be a target of curse, ignorance or insult…I can say with confidence that love wins, and discrimination or hate do not.

—So Sung Uk

Attorney Park Han Hee, the couple’s legal representative, told the media that this was more than just a fight for insurance coverage. Park, who identifies as transgender, feels that the tverdictrdit set a precedent to prevent discrimination against sexual minorities in the country’s legal system.

This court ruling is not just about individuals fighting over insurance payments. Instead, I hope the ruling can set a precedent that discourages the state from hindering same-sex couples’ rights.

—Park Han Hee

Source: Korea Herald

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