A South Korean court ruled in favor of a same-sex couple that sought equal health benefits. This overturns a lower court’s earlier decision, thereby becoming the first recognition of the legal rights of such couples in South Korea.
The plaintiff, So Seong-wook, was previously registered as a “spousal dependent” for state health insurance coverage, under the government-affiliated National Health Insurance Service (NHIS). The NHIS, however, revoked So’s rights as a dependent, imposing premium payments after realizing he was in a same-sex relationship. To date, South Korea still does not legally recognize same-sex marriage.
So and his partner sued the NHIS in 2021 citing discrimination. A lower court sided with NHIS, prompting the couple to appeal the decision. South Korea’s High Court ruling favored them, stating that spousal coverage under the state health insurance scheme was not limited to legally defined families, and – as such – denying that right to same-sex couples was discriminatory.
The court added that protecting the rights of minorities is the “biggest responsibility” of the court as the “last bastion” of human rights.
The NHIS now has two weeks to appeal against the High Court’s decision.