SEOUL — For So Sung-uk and Kim Yong-min, who last week handed down a landmark Seoul court ruling on national health coverage for gay couples, the tide is finally turning for equal recognition in South Korea for LGBTQ people after their years-long struggle can turn into Partnerships.
The 32-year-old activists have regularly posted about their relationship on social media and in public forums since first meeting during their national service a decade ago, including a wedding ceremony in 2019 that was attended by nearly 300 people. were involved.
“The more we are visible and the more we talk about our story, I think the more we can change people’s opinions and create more people like us,” Kim said in an interview from her three-room Seoul apartment. can help LGBTQ people muster up the courage.” With so much
“I believe that if more LGBTQ people show up for who they are, change will come faster.”
The two also managed to obtain national health insurance coverage for So, who works with a youth HIV support group, as a dependent based on his partnership with Kim, an employee for an organization that supports gay and lesbian couples. , advocates for gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights. ,
But when local media drew attention to the pair’s story and the National Health Insurance Service’s official acknowledgment that they were a couple, officials backtracked and canceled coverage of So, saying the approval was an administrative error.
Thus began a two-year legal struggle, as So sued the healthcare service, initially losing in a local administrative court, but last week the Seoul High Court reversed course and affirmed his right to coverage.
“I see this decision not only as a one-time victory but a sign that we are beginning to win – that love has won and it will again,” So said.
“Since we are not recognized as a family by law in South Korea, things like guardianship or issuing real estate registration certificates on each other’s behalf are out of our reach.”
Kim said the reversal was a relief for the country’s LGBTQ community.
“People are tired of not seeing much progress for a long time,” he said.
In South Korea, where anti-LGBTQ discrimination laws face stiff resistance from conservative religious groups and others, the decision was praised by human rights group Amnesty International as “a step towards marriage equality”.
Taiwan is alone among Asian governments in recognizing same-sex marriages, which it legalized in 2019, although Thailand’s legislature is moving forward with bills that could lead to approval while those in India and Japan Court cases have increased pressure for the rights of LGBTQ couples.
South Korea’s health service said in a statement it would conduct a legal review to decide whether to challenge the court’s latest decision before the Supreme Court.
Kim and So attributed South Korea’s slow progress on LGBTQ rights to inaction by politicians, while acceptance among the general public is growing.
“Despite the hate and discrimination you see online, there are many LGBTQ people still living well and happily in this country and there are many people who support us,” So said.
A poll last year by South Korean pollster Realmeter found that nearly seven in 10 respondents said anti-discrimination legislation was necessary.
Anti-discrimination bills have been proposed but lawmakers have failed to move forward with them.
“Politicians like to hide behind social consensus,” it said.
“But it is their job to make society a more equal and better place to live in, not just to sit back and wait for society to change.”