SEOUL, KR — (02-26-23) — South Korea’ Supreme Court ruled in favor of LGBTQ+ couples in a landmark ruling that says spousal coverage under the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) should be applied equally to both LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ couples.

“The plaintiff and his partner are both male, but they agreed to recognize each other as loving partners who take care of each other,” ruled the justices. “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 ruling marks the first legal status of same-sex partners to be recognized in South Korea.

The decision came about thanks to the landmark lawsuit filed by gay couple So Sung-uk and Kim Yong-min, who argued they should have the right to the same spousal insurance benefits the country grants to heterosexual couples. Though same-sex marriage isn’t legal in South Korea, the couple felt that they should still be entitled to the same benefits afforded to heterosexual couples.

According to the Korea Herald, So and Kim got married in 2019 after having lived together six years. In 2020, the couple registered with the NHIS, with Kim as the policyholder and So as the dependent.

However the couple were notified by the NHIS that their policy had been revoked. So was not only shocked by the notification, he was further shocked to learn that the NHIS had ordered him to provide back payments after declaring his same-sex marriage not valid.

A lower court initially ruled against So and Kim, but the Seoul high court overturned the ruling last Tuesday and ordered MHIS to cover the legal expenses of both sides in the case.

While the news was a victory for the gay couple, the high court emphasized that their ruling should not be interpreted as recognizing same-sex marriage.

“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,” So told the Korean Herald. “I can say with confidence that love wins, and discrimination or hate do not.” said So.

The couple’s attorney, Park Han-hee, who is transgender, was delighted with the ruling…“This court ruling is not just about individuals fighting over insurance payments,” she said. “Instead, I hope the ruling can set a precedent that discourages the state from hindering same-sex couples’ rights.”

Article by: Paul Goldberg, Staff Writer

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