Recognition of same-sex unions in South Korea

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Legal status of same-sex unions
  1. Same-sex marriage legal throughout Danish Realm though law in Faroe Islands not yet in effect
  2. Marriages performed in some municipalities and recognized by the state
  3. For some purposes, from all jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is legal
  4. When performed in Mexican states that have legalized same-sex marriage
  5. When performed in the Netherlands proper
  6. Registration schemes opened in all jurisdictions except Hualien County, Keeling City, Penghu County, Taitung County, and Yunlin County

* Not yet in effect

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South Korea recognizes neither same-sex marriage nor any other form of legal union for same-sex couples.


In October 2014, a bill to legalize life partnerships was proposed by some of members of the Minjoo Party of Korea (Democratic Party). Life partnerships would be open to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. A couple will be able to receive tax benefits already given to married spouses as well as protection from domestic violence, in addition to other benefits.[1]

Legal challenges[edit]

In July 2015, Kim Jho Kwang-soo and his partner, Kim Seung-Hwan, filed a lawsuit seeking legal status for their marriage after their marriage registration form was rejected by the local authorities in Seoul. The couple held a wedding ceremony in September 2013.[2] On 25 May 2016, the Seoul Western District Court ruled against the couple and argued that without clear legislation a same-sex union can not be recognized as a marriage.[3] The couple quickly filed an appeal against the district court ruling. Their lawyer, Ryu Min-Hee, announced that two more same-sex couples had filed separate lawsuits in order to be allowed to wed.[4] On 5 December 2016, a South Korean appeals court upheld the district court's ruling, finding that it had no legal flaws. The couple subsequently announced that they will bring their case to the Supreme Court.[5]

Film director Kim Jho Kwang-soo, who is gay, had a public wedding on 7 September 2013.

Political opinions[edit]


The Democratic Labour Party (Korean: 민주노동당), established in January 2000, is the third-largest political party in South Korea and has a political panel known as the Sexual Minorities Committee (Korean: 민주노동당 성소수자위원회) which advocates the recognition and political representation of sexual minorities. Their stated agenda includes a campaign against homophobia and discrimination based on sexual orientation, equal rights for sexual minorities (in their own words, "complete freedom, equality, and right of pursuit of happiness for homosexuals")[6] as well as the legalization of same-sex marriages.[6] On its campaign bid for the 2004 parliamentary elections, the Democratic Labour Party promised the abolition of all inequalities against sexual minorities and won a record 10 seats in the Kukhoe National Assembly.

On July 30, 2004, the Committee filed a formal complaint against the Incheon District Court's decision to refuse the recognition of same-sex marriages. The complaint was filed on the grounds that the decision is unconstitutional since neither the Constitution nor civil law define marriage as being between a man and a woman (the only mentioned requisite is age of majority) and that the Constitution explicitly forbids discrimination "pertaining to all political, economic, social, or cultural aspects of life of an individual." The Committee also claimed that refusal to recognize same-sex marriages constitutes discrimination based on sexual orientation and a refusal to provide equal protection under the law.[7]

In an interview held in September 2014 and later published in October, Mayor of Seoul Park Won-soon announced his support of same-sex marriage,[8] saying he hopes South Korea becomes the first nation in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. A few days later, the City Government announced his words were misinterpreted and that Park's words were that maybe South Korea would become the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. This came after backlash as well as fierce hostility from the Catholic Church.[9]


On December 19, 2007, Lee Myung-bak of the conservative Grand National Party won the presidential election. In a 2007 newspaper interview, the president-elect stated that homosexuality is "abnormal", and that he opposed legal recognition of same-sex marriages.[10]

Public opinion[edit]

A May 2013 Ipsos poll found that 26% of respondents were in favour of same-sex marriage and another 31% supported other form of recognition for same-sex couples.[11]

A matchmaking website asked 616 people between 25 July to 1 August 2015 about their views on same-sex marriage. Nearly 70% of female respondents agreed that same-sex marriage is acceptable while 50.2% of men were against legalizing same-sex marriage. The majority of respondents who supported same-sex marriage said they did so because marriage was a personal choice (67.5%), 13.6% said sexual orientation was determined by nature and 12% said it would help end discrimination.[12][13]

See also[edit]