April 7, 2018: The First Pride March in Jeonju, South KoreaPhoto: Shutterstock
A court in Seoul, South Korea, dismissed a lawsuit brought by a gay couple seeking equal access to health care benefits earlier today.
For example, Seong-wook, 30, sued the country’s National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) after being kicked out of spousal benefits from the employer of his partner Kim Yong-min, 31.
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Kim was able to register So as a dependent in early 2020 with NHIS, possibly the first case of a same-sex partner who can do so in the country.
But then the media picked up on their story and the NHIS withdrew Kim’s status as a dependent.
“The union of a man and a woman is still considered the fundamental element of marriage, according to civil law, the precedents of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court and the general perception of the society”, declared the court.
The couple were not married because marriage equality is not recognized in South Korea, but they argued in court that opposite-sex couples who are not married are often recognized as common-law partners.
But the court rejected this argument: “In the current legal system, it is difficult to assess the relationship between two people of the same sex as a common-law relationship.
“Even if the court left him in the legislature, we will continue to fight until the day our relationship is recognized,” Kim told the court, saying they would appeal. “I believe love will win in the end.”
“The court could have made a more meaningful decision on the case, but they are trying to avoid touching on this issue,” said Lee Jong-geol of LGBTQ organization Chingusai.
South Korea doesn’t ban homosexuality, but LGBTQ people don’t have a lot of protections either. The law does not prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace. All those assigned male at birth are required to participate in two years of military service, but the military prohibits homosexuality. Gay men found in the military are dishonorably dismissed and can be labeled as having a “behavioral disability”.