A South Korean court delivered a landmark ruling on Tuesday recognizing the rights of a same-sex couple for the first time, with activists hailing the verdict as a major victory for LGBTQ rights in the country.
The case—which will now go to the Supreme Court—was brought by a gay couple, So Seong-wook and Kim Yong-min, who live together and held a wedding ceremony in 2019.
It had no legal validity, however, as South Korea does not recognise same-sex marriage.
In 2021, So sued the National Health Insurance Service because it terminated benefits for his partner – whom he had registered as a dependent — after discovering they were a gay couple.
A lower court ruled in favour of the NHIS last year but in a significant turnaround, the High Court in Seoul overturned that decision on Tuesday, effectively ordering the insurance provider to resume benefits to So’s partner as a dependent.
“Today, we have our rights recognised within the legal system,” So’s partner Kim said after the ruling, according to the Yonhap News Agency.
“This represents a victory for everyone wishing for equality for same-sex couples.”
The court did not give a detailed reasoning for its decision.
The NHIS told AFP it will appeal.
“This ruling is significant as the first decision legally recognising same-sex couples to be made by a court at any level in South Korea,” Jang Boram of Amnesty International said in a statement.
Though South Korea still has a “long way to go to end discrimination… this ruling offers hope that prejudice can be overcome.”
While the country does not recognise same-sex marriages, gay relationships are not criminalized. LGBTQ people tend to live largely under the radar.