Sexual minorities, activists call for legalization of gay marriage

By Choi Ji-won
  • Published : Nov 13, 2019 - 17:26
  • Updated : Nov 14, 2019 - 09:47

Some 40 gay couples and rights activitists held a press conference in front of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea in Seoul on Wednesday, calling for legalization of same-sex marriage and filed a petition with more than 1,000 signatures with the human rights panel

The coalition of civic groups filing the petition shed light on intolerance toward same-sex relationships.


“The basic rights to marriage and family life guaranteed by the Constitution are not protected for gay couples in South Korea, whose rights to housing, labor, social security and health are violated,” the group said in a statement.

In a survey of 380 cohabiting gay people in Korea conducted in June by the coalition, 81.7 percent of the respondents said they faced discrimination in receiving medical care while the same percentage experienced discrimination in their workplace because they were in same-sex relationships.

Sexual minorities and activists speak to the press in front of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea building in Seoul before filing a petition for the legalization of gay marriage on Wednesday. (Choi Ji-won/ The Korea Herald)

Chang Suh-yeon, a lawyer at human rights foundation Gonggam, who has been living with her female partner for 13 years, demanded that gay couples be granted the same rights as others.

“Even if something suddenly happens to me, my partner, who knows me the best and has been the closest, won’t have any legal rights as my spouse,” Chang said. “Heterosexuals can do everything just by registering their marriage. Why can’t we?”

“Social discrimination such as the prohibition of gay marriage make homosexual individuals disapprove and hate themselves,” said Vivian, whose 24-year-old gay son came out to her three years ago.

From left, Kim Yong-min, Kim`s partner So Sung-uk, Yoon Hwa-young and Yoon`s partner Chang Suh-yeon, hold up the petition document in front of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea building on Wednesday. (Choi Ji-won/ The Korea Herald)

“Rejecting discrimination of sexual minorities but saying it is not now timely to accept their marriage is an irony,” Baek So-youn, a Gonggam lawyer, said, referring to President Moon Jae-in’s recent statement.

In October, Moon said a social agreement must be reached before accepting gay marriage, after conservative Christian community openly objected to the government’s approval of a foreign diplomat’s same-sex spouse.

According to Baek, South Korea is among the few nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member states that do not recognize some form of legal partnership for same-sex couples. In May, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize gay marriage. More than 20 municipal governments in Japan currently accept homosexual couples for civil unions.

Meanwhile, in March, a request by a British-Korean gay couple married in the UK to have their legal status recognized by the human rights commission was rejected. 

By Choi Ji-won (