South Korea’s supreme court has ruled that its national health insurance must cover same-sex partners, recognizing the rights of same-sex couples for the first time.
It comes after So Seong-wook and Kim Yong-min, a same-sex couple, brought forward a case when one partner was denied insurance cover as a dependent of his partner.
In South Korea, a spouse or partner can be considered a dependent under their partner’s health insurance plan and are not required to make separate health insurance payments, if they meet certain criteria.
So and Kim, who held a wedding ceremony in 2019 and live together, managed to register as a dependent with the national health insurance in February 2020, making them the first same-sex couple to do so successfully, according to Amnesty International.
However, the national health insurance revoked So’s dependent status eight months, arguing that same-sex partners did not qualify for the social benefit.
The couple filed a lawsuit at a lower court, which sided with the national health insurance, but they appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.
On Tuesday Feb. 21, the high court ruled in favor of the couple, arguing that the decision to deny the benefit to same-sex couples could be considered discrimination, given that the national health insurance had previously granted the benefit to civil unions.
“By not recognizing partners in same-sex relationships, the National Health Insurance Service was discriminating against same-sex couples, denying basic rights afforded to couples of the opposite sex,” Amnesty said.
The decision has been hailed as a landmark one that will hopefully bring South Korea closer to marriage equality.
Last year, South Korean supreme court made another landmark ruling in favor of LGBTQ rights by overturning the conviction of two gay soldiers, who had sexual intercourse during their military service.