A South Korean court delivered a landmark ruling on Tuesday recognising 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 says it will appeal.
While the country does not recognise same-sex marriages, gay relationships are not criminalised. LGBTQ people tend to live largely under the radar.
A much-discussed anti-discrimination law has languished in the South Korean parliament for years, due to a lack of consensus among lawmakers. (AFP)