South Korea: High Court health insurance ruling offers hope for marriage equality

Responding to a South Korean High Court decision ordering the country’s national health insurance service to resume coverage for a partner in a same-sex relationship, Amnesty International’s East Asia Researcher Boram Jang said:

“This is an important decision that moves South Korea closer to achieving marriage equality. There is still a long way to go to end discrimination against the LGBTI community, but this ruling offers hope that prejudice can be overcome.

“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. Today’s ruling will help to rectify this wrong.

“This ruling is significant as the first decision legally recognizing same-sex couples to be made by a court at any level in South Korea, but much more needs to be done to end discrimination against, and criminalization of, the LGBTI community.

“This should include the adoption of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law and abolition of the Article 92-6 of the Military Criminal Act.”


South Korea’s High Court today ordered the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) to resume coverage for a partner in a same-sex relationship.

On 7 January 2022, the Seoul Administrative Court dismissed an administrative lawsuit filed by So Seong-wook against the NHIS for denying his spousal insurance coverage by not recognizing him as Kim’s dependant. So appealed the decision to the High Court on 21 January 2022.

The couple held a wedding ceremony in 2019 and live together as a married couple, though their relationship is not recognized under South Korean law. They had been the first same-sex couple to be able to register a ‘dependent’ under the NHIS but the NHIS cancelled this dependent status eight months later.

Taiwan became the first in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage in May 2019. Legislation recognizing marriage between same-sex couples went into effect this month in Slovenia and Andorra, bringing the global total of countries recognizing same-sex marriage in law to 33.