Photo: Civic groups celebrate the High Court ruling regarding same sex marriage. Credit: Network for Sexual Minority Family Formation Guarantee.
In a major step toward legalizing gay marriage, court ruled that same sex couples may register each other as dependents in social welfare programs. On February 21, the Seoul High Court 서울고등법원 found in favor of Kim Yong-min 김용민 in his suit against the National Health Insurance Service 건강보험공단 challenging NHIS’s refusal to allow him to register his husband So Seong-uk 소성욱 as a dependent.
Although South Korean law does not formally recognize same sex marriages, government regulations in many instances give the same legal treatment to couples in de facto marriages 사실혼, i.e. cohabiting adults who live as married partners despite lacking a marriage registration.
The High Court’s decision overturned a decision by Seoul Administrative Court 서울행정법원, which held in January 2022 that same sex couples cannot form de facto marriages.
The appellate court firmly rejected the conclusion, citing the Human Rights Commission Act 인권위원회법: “there is no longer any place for discrimination based on sexual orientation in the area of public legal relationships, including the social welfare system.” The case is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court 대법원.