South Korea fails to recognise same-sex marriage

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A lawsuit filed by a prominent South Korean couple has been dismissed by authorities.

A lawsuit filed by a prominent gay film director and his partner seeking legal status for their same-sex marriage was rejected by a South Korean district court yesterday in the first case of its kind.

South Korea fails to recognise same-sex marriage

Movie director Kim Jho Gwang-Soo and his long-time partner Kim Seung-Hwan, held a wedding ceremony in Seoul in 2013 and recently submitted their marriage registration form to their local authority – only for it to be rejected.

The couple challenged the decision in a lawsuit filed in July last year – but the ruling on Wednesday sided with the local authority, which claims marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

South Korea fails to recognise same-sex marriage

“Circumstances have changed concerning marriage, but unless there is separate legislation, a same sex union cannot be recognised as marriage under the existing legal system”, the Seoul western district court said in a statement.

“Related laws, including the constitution and civil law, are premised on the notion of a conjugal bond meaning a union involving different sexes,” it added.

The couple are the most high-profile gay couple in South Korea and the lawsuit they filed over their marriage licence was the first of its kind.

“We regret the court decision, but we did see it coming,” Kim Seung-Hwan told AFP, adding that the couple intended to appeal the ruling.

The couple’s lawyer Ryu Min-Hee said the lawsuit had argued that civil law should be viewed through a “gender-neutral” prism that upheld equal rights provisions in the constitution.

“When in doubt, all laws should be interpreted in a constitutional way,“ she said.

“We’re disappointed but we’re not done yet,” she added.