SEOUL, South Korea (LifeSiteNews) — A South Korean high court ruled last month that two men in a same-sex relationship are eligible for national health insurance coverage as a “couple,” overruling a lower court’s decision from last year that denied eligibility based on the country’s legal recognition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The ruling marks South Korea’s first legal recognition of privileges for homosexual “partners.”
The Seoul Administrative Court of Appeals issued the ruling on Feb. 21 in favor of So Sung-uk and Kim Yong-min. According to reports, Kim and So have been gay “partners” since 2013, allegedly conducting their own “wedding ceremony” in May 2019.
In 2021, Sung-uk sued the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) because it terminated health benefits for his gay “partner,” whom he had registered in 2020 as a dependent. The termination came after it became known the two were a homosexual “couple.” The NHIS subsequently declared the marital status of the two invalid and refused to accept an appeal of the decision since South Korean law upholds marriage as only between a man and a woman.
In 2022, a lower court ruled against the two men because they were not married. The court stated, “The union of a man and woman is still considered the fundamental element of marriage, according to civil law, precedents of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court and the general perception of society.”
Nor did a lower court accept the argument that the same-sex relationship of the two men was equivalent to “common-law” unions, declaring, “Under the current legal system, it is difficult to evaluate the relationship between two people of the same sex as a common-law relationship.”
However, the Court of Appeals reversed that decision — with the caveat, according to the court, that although it was acknowledging that a same-sex partner as a dependent was eligible for national health insurance, the ruling did not mean the court was recognizing the “legal status” of same-sex marriage. In spite of this caveat, the high court declared the same-sex relationship of the two men to be “no different in essence from that of a married couple.”
In its February ruling, the high court stated, “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.”
Many LGBT advocates, including attorney Park Han-hee, legal representative of the two men in the case and who identifies as transgender, noted that the ruling could be used as a precedent for other cases involving those in same-sex relationships, advancing their privileges and legal status in South Korea.
“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 said.
The NHIS has said it is appealing the decision, which will bring the case to South Korea’s Supreme Court. The appeal court’s ruling in favor of the same-sex “couple” comes as the West ramps up pressure on African countries to decriminalize sodomy and as the European Union continues to exert pressure and sanctions on Poland and Hungary for their refusal to accept LGBT propaganda and policies in favor of laws that protect traditional marriage, the family, and young children.